ContentsNewsnight often presented by Kirsty Wark). This original version relied on Mark's ability to do passable impersonations of two legendary BBC political news staff - John Cole and Peter Snow. The sketch is based on the events in Daniel 5.
Note that when we performed it Jane played Kirsty and Mark played all the other characters - obviously it would be better suited to 4 separate actors!
Kirsty: Good evening. Tonight we have dropped our scheduled news analysis because of the remarkable reports we are receiving from the palace. There are rumours of the most bizarre and extraordinary happenings at tonight's royal banquet. To bring you accurate up-to-the-minute news we’re going live to the palace to our on-the-spot political commentator, John Charcoal. John are you there?
John: Undoubtably Kirsty.
Kirsty: John, just what exactly has been happening?
John: Well, Kirsty, the reports we have are quite astounding. Tonight’s royal banquet began with controversy because King Belshazzar demanded that the gold and silver cups and plates from the old Jewish Temple be used for serving the food and drink. This, of course, caused uproar amongst the Jewish working class – but then, it appears, someone far more powerful than the Jews took matters in hand.
Kirsty: In what way?
John: Quite literally it seems. During the meal proceedings were interrupted when, what appeared to be, a huge human hand appeared out of nowhere and began to write on the wall of the palace.
Kirsty: Write on the wall, John?
John: Yes indeed! Remarkable I know – but the writing remains on the wall for all to see. In fact, the hand wrote the words: “Mene, mene, tekel, parsin”
Kirsty: What does that mean.
John: I just don't know Kirsty. We are currently trying to find out. Rumour has it that the former prime minister of the previous administration, Daniel, is able to determine the meaning but he is currently unavailable for comment as he is in closed session with the king.
Kirsty: How has the king reacted.
John: Badly I'm afraid Kirsty. During the incident he was said to be reduced to a gibbering wreck. Subsequently he recovered enough to offer a substantial reward and promotion to anyone who could interpret the writing.
Kirsty: What does this mean for the government John?
John: Well I wouldn't like to say Kirsty. Undoubtably this will be a difficult situation for the palace to handle. What I would say is we will see a big government shakeup at the very least – but whatever happens this will be very destabilising – calling into question Belshazzar’s leadership.
Kirsty: Thank you John. Well quite amazing events unfolding before us tonight. But to get the inside story from the government we have managed to get one of the royal advisors who was at the banquet into the studio – the Rt. Hon. Shazzar Nezza – Minister for Interior Affairs. Mr. Nezza what has gone wrong?
Nezza: Well I'm not sure anything has gone wrong. Obviously, this is a disturbing security breach but I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation and King Belshazzar will bring the whole matter to a swift resolution. Remember – a week is a long time in politics.
Kirsty: Surely though this is a damaging blow to King Belshazzar's credibility?
Nezza: No, not at all – I’m sure the party will unite behind our leader.
Kirsty: Even despite this questionable decision to use the Jew's holy silverware?
Nezza: I feel that was a perfectly legitimate use of the King’s absolute authority.
Kirsty: Obviously whoever or whatever wrote that message disagrees. What do you make of the writing.
Nezza: Well we are trying to determine which language it was written in. But I’m sure that all this disaster talk is premature…
Kirsty: [Putting finger to ear] I'm going to have to stop you there, Mr. Nezza because we have received official word from the palace on Daniel’s interpretation of the writing. Peter Snow has been working on the results and is ready now with some of his famous computer graphics to take us through them right now. Peter.
Peter: [very fast animated delivery] Thank you Kirsty. Right, so there we have it. The writing is on the wall for Belshazzar – there it is [Picture on-screen of Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin] – but what does it mean? Right, well, according to Daniel this is the interpretation [Picture on-screen of translation]. Right, so there we have it: Mene means number, Tekel means Weight and Parsin means Divided. Well, you may say, that’s all very well Daniel, thank you very much but what does it mean? Right, well this is what Daniel says: Number, Number. Basically this means “Your numbers up mate”. Its time to go now. Tiddly-boo. The message here is that Belshazzar’s reign is over. What next. Well Tekel – Daniel says that Belshazzar has been weighed on God’s scales and been found wanting. That’s a big swing there on the scales – much too light on humility far too heavy on pride. More bad news for Belshazzar. Finally Parsin – Belshazzar’s kingdom is to be divided up and given to the Persians and Medes – so a coalition government if he’s lucky or total conquest if he’s not. So overall a very bad result for Belshazzar. Kirsty.
Kirsty: Thank you Peter. Well that’s all we have time for now. [Handed a piece of paper] Just time to tell you that … there are unconfirmed reports that the city is being attacked by Mede soldiers – the city defences may have already been breached. We’ll bring you more news on that as it happens. Good night.
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