Derren Brown: TV Specials

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DERREN BROWN: Hero at 30,000 Feet broadcast on C4 on 8 September, 2010

  • DB introduces the programme's concept of helping someone make a decision to change their life and live it to the full; he stresses the important of engaging with life and the effect of the choices people make. The process to select the person whose life would be changed is shown: people believed they were applying to be in a game show hosted by DB. DB picked 23 year old Matt Galley (MG) who seemed 'stuck in a rut' with an 'unremarkable life'.
  • DB shows MG in a room with three actors who he believes are other applicants. As smoke begins to come under the door the actors have been told to do nothing, and MG does nothing either; DB labels this the bystander effect, a phenomenon regularly seen when no-one wants to be the one to take action.
  • DB has 30 days in which to change MG's character by giving him extreme opportunities all leading to the question of whether he will be brave enough to land a Boeing 737 full of passengers when the captain is taken ill.
  • Chapter 1: Crisis
    MG is picked up by a taxi and the driver stops at a petrol station. MG goes into the shop and witnesses an armed robbery in which his mobile phone is taken and he is told that his life is worthless.
  • DB leaves a musical Jack in the Box on MG's doorstep, he finds it, plays with it and takes it into the house.
  • Chapter 2: Realisation
    At 2.39am DB is at MG's house and explains that there are hidden cameras, microphones and speakers in his bedroom. From outside DB speaks to MG telling him that he is dreaming, to get dressed and to come outside. DB talks to him about the improbability of birth and how it is a magician's dream to make something out of nothing. DB describes this as giving his subconscious tools to change itself. The next morning his girlfriend describes him as being very positive.
  • After finishing work, MG breaks his routine and does not go straight home, rather he walks to a golf course and sits and writes for 90 minutes.
  • Chapter 3: Embrace Risk
    Again DB summons MG in the middle of the night. He drives him to a corn field where there is a live crocodile: DB talks about the need for tenacity to achieve one's dreams and tells MG to touch the crocodile; he does.
  • DB tells MG to visualise being a policeman something his mother said was his ambition and to imagine him walking through a policeman's house.
  • The next morning MG tells his girlfriend he has e-mailed Thames Valley and South Yorkshire Police about jobs.
  • DB leaves another Jack in the Box on MG's doorstep.
  • On his way home from work, MG finds a wallet and a set of keys which apparently belong to a deputy police commissioner. He takes a taxi to the address in the wallet, rings the doorbell and when there is no answer he lets himself in. He explores the house and sees bravery awards and police paraphernalia; while exploring the 'deputy police commissioner' arrives home and MG manages to escape unnoticed. In the taxi he reflects on the stupidity of his actions, but appears excited by the experience. He gets home and find the Jack in the Box.
  • In interviews his family comment on the positive changes they have noticed in MG's character and behaviour.
  • Chapter 4: Act Selflessly
    MG comes across a broken down van filled with party gear with a very frustrated driver in his street. MG talks very positively to the driver giving him the confidence to abandon his job and follow his ambition; the driver leaves and gives the van to MG. MG decides to use the equipment to set up a street party; his family have been told to go along with anything he suggests, but the neighbours do not know about the whole process. Nevertheless, MG and his girlfriend go house to house and the neighbours accept the invitations and scenes of the street party are shown.
  • Chapter 5: Face Fear
    For this first time DB meets MG in a normal waking state and talks about courage being a mastery of fear. DB mentions Houdini and how he himself used to lie on train tracks. He puts a straitjacket on MG, tells him to lie across a train track and ties his ankles to the rail. DB says that the train is coming and takes out the instructions for the escape but is very vague. As the trains gets very close, DB tells MG how to escape and he successfully leaps from the track with the train narrowly missing him.
  • Continuing the change in his character, MG sees himself as having been both determined and relaxed about escape. It also transpires that he and his girlfriend are going to move out and that he has been to see a career advisor.
  • Chapter 5 (sic): Hero at 30,000 feet?
    MG is told that he will have to fly to Jersey for the game show, and he is apprehensive about this having not flown for ten years and being afraid of flying. DB has chartered a flight with Jet2.com and all the other passengers are actors; while it is a genuine flight crew they are all aware of the purpose of the flight. During the flight, the purser announces that there is a sick crew member and asks whether there is a doctor on board. The passengers are then told that the captain is incapacitated and will be unable to land the plane; they are asked whether anyone could volunteer to help them land the plane. After 56 seconds' deliberation, MG volunteers and on his way to the cockpit DB steps out of the galley and hypnotises him. While MG is asleep the plane lands safely and he is transferred to a training simulator where he is woken up believing he is in the cockpit. An air traffic controller talks MG through the landing and he duly lands the plane safely.
  • MG leaves the simulator where he is met by DB, his family, the passengers and people who were part of the situations he faced over the past 30 days.
  • DB leaves the viewer with the message that it is time for someone else's journey to start: he presses a large red button and a 30 day countdown begins...

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