Veteran writer Tony Jordan admits that his first version of ‘The Ark’, debuting on BBC One this evening, didn’t include the flood that followed, before he realised he’d be letting down his audience as well as himself.
He tells HuffPostUK his original pitch to make the drama ended with a single rain drop in the palm of Noah’s hand.
“When I finished, I felt cheated. I’d been conditioned about the flood and the animals,” he reveals now. “The one thing that I pride myself on is my regard for the audience, surprising them, making them laugh, not disappointing them.
“And however brilliant the rest of the story was, without the flood, they’d have been disappointed.”
David Threlfall and Joanne Whalley star in Tony Jordan's retelling of 'The Ark'
If anyone knows how to find the hook of a tale, it’s Tony Jordan. It was he who penned the timeless line ‘I’m your MOTHER!’ during his time at EastEnders, where he also rode the rollercoaster of Sharon/Phil/Grant’s love triangle.
He’s convinced his retelling of biblical tale ‘The Ark’ – David Threlfall as old man Noah surprising his family in the desert with his announcement the rains are coming and he’s off to build them a boat - offers something just as dramatic and contemporary, even if there’s more loincloth than leather on display.
“Noah’s story has turned into Pepper the Pig,” he tells HuffPostUK. “It’s gone a bit Teletubbies in people’s minds, so I thought it was time to remind audiences how relevant it is to modern life.
“What was interesting to me was the family, not the flood. This story isn’t about animals, it’s about choices.
“My own father’s 87 now. What would any of us do if he came home one day said he was going to build a boat in the garden?”
According to Tony, who previously brought ‘The Nativity’ to screen, his TV version is a few million miles from the recent big-screen outing starring Russell Crowe, of which he sounds less than a fan.
Noah is warned about the forthcoming flood by an angel in the desert (Ashley Walters)
“The film had nothing to do with Noah,” he says vehemently. “They tried to be smart and weren’t. They had something like $150million and that’s what they did with it.”
It’s never been a more sensitive time to take ancient religious tales and give them a modern setting, but, for Tony, that makes them more important than ever…
“There should be these stories,” he says. “All I know about Islam is what ISIS tell me, but there should be a balance with other stories. Tales like Noah, Nativity, they’re so much a part of what we are, and we can’t lose them. The Nativity isn’t about Twiggy buying cakes.
“I’m not stating any opinion about anything. Noah lays out his argument and says you have the choice to get on the boat or not. Then you live with the consequences. If you don’t have the faith, don’t get on the boat.”
What would Tony do if given the choice?
“I’d probably keep my options open,” he decides, “stay in a tent very close to the boat.”
'The Ark' is on tonight at 8.30pm on BBC1. Pictures below...