In 2018 the threat of war is a constant debate by our political heavyweights in an attempt to protect innocent people from dangerous dictators and the need for military action remains as crucial as ever. Whether it’s Putin, Trump or Kim Jong Un, someone is going to be the first to crack and when they do, the armed forces will once again be required to risk everything to preserve our freedom. Since the Iraq war in 2003, interest in the development of the armed forces has grown dramatically and has crossed over into entertainment.
In 2015 a group of ex special forces officers burst on to Channel Four as they took thirty civilian men through the rigorous process of SAS selection. Lifting the lid on the Special Forces and charting the psychological welfare of potential recruits was something which had never been explored on TV before and revealed that it’s not always physical strength that will see you prevail. In fact in this series alone, we have already seen a large number drop out due to their mental state. With so many young men using the forces to help them turn their lives around and introduce a sense of discipline into their lives, you could argue that they need to ask themselves are they actually joining up for the right reasons.
This becomes ever more apparent when the guys are each made to select a fellow troop member to fight in a no holds barred duel overseen by Ant Middleton. Which one will use it to try and get rid of pent up aggression which they’ve oppressed for years or who will keep a cool head and fight? This reveals a lot about their character and assists the DS (directing staff) in determining those who will remain in the process. These issues are then brought up when they are woken in the middle of the night and subjected to a thorough grilling by the staff. If you thought Piers Morgan was intrusive then think again! To be woken up by an angry SAS instructor who instantly puts a bag over your head and leads you into a cold room whereupon you’re interrogated by two formidable men is probably enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown, but this is just a regular occurrence on this show.
Television has always had a great love for seeing the underdog prevail; whether it’s Delboy getting rich, Maureen passing her test in Driving School or Norman Stanley Fletcher getting one over on Mr McKay in Porridge. As a TV viewer, there’s always something very rewarding about investing in a person and seeing them succeed or at least try. SAS: Who Dares Wins is a prime example of Britain’s love for rooting for the underdog and being taken on a journey to see if our favourite characters conquer their dreams. Therefore when a young recruit stands on the edge of a dam, nervously waiting to abseil down, the whole country is willing him to do it. Not many programmes have the power to make the audience hang on every action and invest in the protagonists.
Each person featured has a short film giving us an insight into why they joined up and what made them want to do it. A common theme throughout all films is being bullied by bigger children at school sowing the seed which made them want to protect themselves. It all sounds very Freudian but for many of the troop, this is the ultimate acknowledgement that they’re no longer inferior and powerless. In contrast to this, it becomes apparent that a percentage of the troop have had previous encounters with the wrong side of the law and are using this experience to turn their life around. Ant and his staff aren’t just dictators but become like counsellors to the men, assisting them with everything from relationship advice to how they can forget their past mistakes and live a good life. It’s obvious that SAS: Who Dares Wins feels a responsibility to protect and preserve the mental well-being of all troop members and this goes some way to set this show apart from similar programmes within this genre.
Despite the obvious differences, SAS: Who Dares Wins follows the same structure as previous versions of the military story. Here’s a little reminder of some of the best:
Dermot O’Leary follows the lives of thirty men as they embark on the grueling training regime to become part of the elite.
A rare insight into the rigorous process of becoming a Royal Marine Commando, from the trials of basic training through to receiving the all important green beret.
Channel Four was granted unprecedented access into the Royal Marines basic training programme and revealed the emotional impact which selection had on the recruits.
So what’s next for Ant Middleton and the boys? He’s already enjoyed success away from the SAS with series including Escape and Mutiny proving that Middleton has already generated quite a loyal following. As the threat of war continues to linger, we take a significant amount of solace from the fact that while we have people like Ant, Ollie, Foxy and Mark doing their duty, Britain is a safer place.