9th January 2005  

Derren Brown: Messiah was aired on Channel Four on the 7th January 2005 with the purpose of seeing if five authority figures in America would endorse Derren’s five pseudonyms and in turn try to encourage the public to question various aspects of their life’s and belief systems. The programme was not produced to debunk all beliefs, instead it followed the same lines of Séance: hopefully urging the viewer to maybe see if there was a turning in their straight-line linking about belief and urging them to question and explore the wilderness which had been opened to them, not necessarily to take that path, but just to be aware of its existence and to question some of the pebbles which form part of the road.

Yes, I enjoyed the programme and think it was potentially a very good idea but I feel some aspects of the production was rushed and maybe the message could have been better portrayed if the programme had been slightly longer in length. I feel some aspects were edited with the one aim of promoting Derren’s objectives and idealology which normally I would have no issue with as it is entertainment and should always be treated with a pinch of salt, but I just find the irony of producing a ‘documentary’ about questioning the information given by authority figures which had itself been highly edited incredibly funny. Please forgive me for laughing so much!

I think my lack of enthusiasm for the programme stems from the title; why call it Messiah? Messiah is not just a Christian word, it is a Hebrew term meaning “anointed one,” designating a king or priest of ancient Israel so why was it used when only one of the authority figure ‘targets’ was Christian, all the others stemmed from the New Age and Alien genre?

Maybe Messiah was a good idea at the time considering the complaints made by Christian communities regarding the screening of Séance, and could have worked to Derren’s public profile advantage if it had been more provocative, but instead it just reminded me of Objective Productions’ Psychic! programme which was presented by Alistair Cook, if I remember correctly. I have nothing against either programme, they were entertainingly good, but it just seems a strange direction to turn into after the success of Mind Control, Trick of the Mind, Russian Roulette and Séance. Is it possible to have Messiah sandwiched between two series of Trick of the Mind considering their completely different objectives? Surely Derren is either an entertainer who “messes with people’s minds” or he is an authority figure himself who is on a self-fulfilling mission to get people to question their beliefs. Not bad for someone who doesn’t think ‘pure’ card magic can be mixed with his ‘psychological illusionist’ persona!

OK, maybe I’m reading into all of this a little too much, which probably I am, but if Derren makes a programme to encourage the public to question then I’m afraid he can only be subject to the same questioning himself (which I sincerely hope was the ultimate objective of the programme). And shouldn’t we strive to give honest opinions about performance? This may well be a fan site (oh how I hate that generic name) but I refuse to fill it with messages I don’t believe in just because that is what most readers want to hear…I fear I’m losing more readers with every word I type!

To Derren’s credit he did, as always, put on a very good performance, but to me, however, the techniques were a little shallow and transparent; they were more of a tool and not performed in the traditional sense. Maybe the programme could have benefited by inserting some slightly newer effects or some hidden camera sections, OK, so maybe the show would have lost its documentation edge but I’m sure the powers that be could have thought of some smaller effects to include.

I don’t think Derren’s objective has been lost on me, like I said previously, it was a very good idea, I just feel that the style of the programme didn’t suit the content and was slanted maybe a little too much towards Derren’s ulterior motive.

Well done to Derren for daring to be different and continually breaking the magician’s mould, but please can we have more episodes of Trick of the Mind?

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