Noughts + Crosses

The series about racial inequality loses its appeal as it zeroes in on a rushed, clichéd star-crossed romance

Tv Review by Stefania Sarrubba | 26 Mar 2020
  • Noughts + Crosses
Title: Noughts + Crosses
Series Creator: Julian Holmes, Koby Adom
Starring: Jack Rowan, Masali Baduza
Platform: BBC iPlayer

An adaptation of the young adult novel series by Malorie Blackman, Noughts + Crosses stems from a clever premise. What would happen if white people were being given the treatment that has been historically reserved to people of colour? 

The show is set in a modern-day London where white Noughts are considered somewhat inferior to black Crosses. Seven hundered years before the story takes place, an alliance of West African nations known as the Aprican empire had taken over Europe. In this alternate history of colonialism, Albion – comprising Great Britain and Ireland – is still ruled by Aprica, whereas mainland Europe is controlled by other factions.

The series opens with a race-reversed police brutality incident harsh enough to have everyone check their privileges. As the city is torn by the clashes between Aprican police and the white-led Liberation Militia, the frowned-upon friendship of Cross Sephy Hadley (Masali Baduza) and Nought Callum McGregor (Jack Rowan) blossoms into something else.

Relying on a tense atmosphere reminding of the Troubles, Noughts + Crosses peaks when it deals openly with injustice and the political intrigues lying beneath a seemingly calm surface. The appeal fades away, however, as it focuses on Sephy and Callum, whose rushed storyline borrows heavily from that of Romeo and Juliet. The fact Noughts + Crosses is stylised with a plus sign, just like the Baz Luhrmann-directed movie about Montagues and Capulets, isn’t helping its case. On the other hand and similarly to Lurhmann’s film, Noughts + Crosses also boasts great production design and costumes.

By significantly differing from the ending that shocked the fans of the books in 2001, the show is alarmingly paving the way for an equally lacklustre season two. Noughts + Crosses is an uncomfortable, necessary watch in uncertain times where racial and social tensions are at an all-time high, yet it isn’t as riveting as one would hope.

Noughts + Crosses is available to stream on BBC iPlayer