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Series / Noughts & Crosses

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A 2020-2022 BBC television adaptation of the first novel in the Noughts & Crosses book series by Malorie Blackman, starring Masali Baduza as Sephy Hadley and Jack Rowan as Callum McGregor.


  • Academic Athlete: Callum passes both Mercy Point's written entrance exams and grueling military tests.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Cara only appears in the novels after Callum has already died. Here, she meets both Jude and Callum earlier in the storyline.
  • Adapted Out: Callum's sister Lynette does not appear.
  • Age Lift: Callum and Sephy are older here at 17/18 from the start whereas in the book they're 14/15 and age to adulthood.
  • Ascended Extra: In the book, Kamal Hadley is only seen through Sephy's perspective and his political dealings are merely hinted at. Here, he has his own plotline around his role as Home Secretary and preventing racial reform.
  • Bigot with a Crush: Kamal loathes Noughts even more than most other Crosses, but it's revealed he previously had an affair with and fathered a child by a Nought woman.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Sephy and Callum can't even be together publicly, since interracial relationships are still illegal. Although their mothers don't appear to disapprove, this is utterly taboo to Sephy's father. The two run off together after Sephy gets pregnant despite what anyone else thinks.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • Sephy's boyfriend Lekan.
    • Danny, whose attack by the police kicks off the events of the series. His death serves a similar role to Lynette's in the book, in increasing tensions between the McGregor boys.
  • Casting Gag: Sephy, Jasmine and several other Cross characters are played by black South Africans. Their characters are part of a system which is essentially apartheid in Britain, with a black ruling class over the white indigenous population.
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  • Category Traitor: Callum is viewed as a traitor by many fellow Noughts after he joins the military academy (which only one other Nought cadet attends), feeling he's serving the ruling Crosses in doing so.
  • Childhood Friends: Callum and Sephy grew up together and reunite as adults in the first episode.
  • Child of Forbidden Love: Callum and Sephy's baby, as the result of their illicit relationship.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Ryan was beaten to death by another prisoner, with a guard's connivance. The prison administration claims it was suicide.
  • Diagonal Billing: The actors playing Callum and Sephy are billed this way.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ryan is killed in prison, leaving Callum and Jude bereft of him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire story is meant to evoke racism in the US, UK and South Africa, except with flipped positions of white people vs. black people. Specifically:
    • In the show's backstory, Albion (viewed as a "backwater") was colonized by Aprica (a powerful world empire) and the elite Cross minority set up rule over the majority Nought population, mirroring the European colonization of numerous countries, including India and South Africa.
    • In present-day, Albion is now more racially segregated than Aprica itself, and apparently viewed poorly by other nations - much like South Africa in the latter 20th century, whose extreme apartheid laws led to international sanctions and boycotts.
    • The police violence against Noughts and the subsequent protests echoes police brutality against African-Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement, along with earlier anti-apartheid efforts in South Africa.
    • The Liberation Militia parallels the IRA in its ideology, cell structure, bomb attacks on civilians and treatment by the media.
    • Cross stereotypes about Noughts (their men are naturally aggressive, incapable of controlling their lust, for any Cross woman especially, Nought women being wild with a strong libido) echo those that were given to black people.
    • Cross justifications for ruling Noughts mirror those of European colonialists in the past.
    • London has a statue which looks much like the Statue of Liberty, except of a black woman wearing African clothes carrying a torch, in a different stance.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Callum diplomatically refusing to join Jude in the drag race and then trying to pacify the police who are harassing them, establishing him as a level-headed peacemaker.
    • Sephy preparing breakfast for her mother's birthday and later being the only Cross at the party to check Callum was alright when he hurt himself.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Kamal Hadley and Jack Dorne, with Kamal ruthlessly persecuting Noughts and Dorne killing numerous people of both races in retaliation.
  • False Confession: Ryan falsely confesses to bombing the hospital. While the police realize he didn't do it (the bomber was partly seen on video, and looked nothing like him) they accept it anyway to look good with the higher-ups. He did it to protect Jude, who really planted the bomb. Ryan later pleads guilty, and is sentenced to thirty years in prison.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Blanker" is used as the equivalent of the N-word, or "Kaffir" (deriving from "Blank", i.e. "white" in several languages), for white people instead. "Dagger" is one for Crosses which Noughts use. "Halfer" is used for people of mixed Nought and Cross ancestry.
  • Forbidden Love: Sephy and Callum's interracial relationship, which is not only taboo but also illegal.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Kamal strongly opposes the Prime Minister's proposal that interracial relationships be legalized, speaking contemptuously of the "mongrels and halfers" that would result.
  • Happily Married: Ryan and Meggie McGregor, despite all the financial struggles and discrimination they face.
  • Hypocrite: Kamal strongly opposes interracial relationships and speaks disdainfully of mixed-race people. He himself was in a relationship with a Nought woman, who gave birth to their mixed-race son.
  • I Have Your Wife: The Liberation Militia kidnap Sephy in the season one finale, and coerce Kamal into resigning as Prime Minister using threats to her.
  • Illegal Religion: It's mentioned that a lot of Nought religious celebrations are outlawed. Prime Minister Folami allowing them to celebrate Midsummer is part of her reformist approach.
  • Inter-Class Romance: Sephy is part of the elite ruling class, while Callum is the son of her family's housekeeper.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Callum is beaten by the police to get the name of the bomber.
  • Lady Drunk: Jasmine is an upper class woman (her husband being a government minister) who's an obvious alcoholic as well, to the concern of her family. She seems very unhappy with her marriage and life overall, drowning her sorrows with alcohol. Eventually she's hospitalized and stops drinking.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Sephy gets pregnant by Callum without intending to. For bonus points, it's possibly her first time and the sole instance (that we know of) where they had sex.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Yaro turns out to be the half-brother whom Sephy and Minerva had not known they had.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Interracial relationships are illegal. They still occur clandestinely-a whole motel caters to illicit liaisons among such couples. Elaine is jeered by the Cross cadets after Lekan reveals she was there (though nothing happens to Barnaby, whom she'd been with). Sephy and Callum try to keep their relationship a secret because of this. Kamal is also quite keen to conceal the fact he had an affair with a Nought woman in the past, and they have a son.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Sephy has the cover up over her breasts in bed beside Callum after they have sex.
  • Morning Sickness: Sephy getting this in the season one finale reveals that she's pregnant (her mother said she'd been sick lately).
  • Nice to the Waiter: Sephy. It's notable that she and Callum end up meeting again, because she came to help a random Nought waiter - who she didn't even recognize as Callum at the time - when he hurt himself serving drinks.
  • Only Sane Woman: Poor Meggie is one in both the tumultuous McGregor and Hadley households.
  • Parental Abandonment: Kamal was completely absent from Yaro's life, due to him being born from an affair (which was also illegal as it's an interracial relationship). Yaro learns of him only after his mother's death.
  • Persecution Flip: The series depicts an alternate world where seven hundred years ago a parallel Britain (i.e. Albion here) was conquered and colonized by the Aprican Empire. Due to this, white people (Noughts) live under the ruling black people (Crosses) as second-class citizens, suffering from segregation and police brutality.
  • Police Brutality:
    • In Episode 1, a Cross police officer hits a Nought youth with his cudgel for no real reason aside from racist animus, putting him into a coma. He later dies. This serves as the spark of the plot.
    • Callum is later struck while being arrested despite not being resistant at all, then beaten in custody by the police.
    • Nicola, a Liberation Militia member, is beaten to death by the police.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Prime Minister Folami recognizes Nought oppression isn't sustainable and works to bring racial unity in Albion. She fails, thanks to Kamal.
    • One of the Cross prison guards stops a prisoner from doing anything to Ryan in the yard. He's later warded off from stopping the same prisoner kill Ryan however by a fellow guard.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Liberation Militia seek to overthrow a racist government... and do that by bombing a hospital where minister Kamal was visiting, killing two doctors and a janitor.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Lekan versus Callum for Sephy.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Thoughtful Callum and aggressive Jude. Reflected in their efforts to reform Albion, with Callum trying to influence things from within, while Jude joins the extremist Liberation Militia. Also highlighted through their appearance, as Callum is a slightly-built Pretty Boy, while Jude is a burly Hunk.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Sephy and Callum both have this reaction when they meet again.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Oh boy, Sephy and Callum, with the illegality of their relationship just the start. She's originally dating Callum's abusive commanding officer and her father is one of the most vitriolic anti-Nought politicians, while Callum's brother supports the anti-Cross terrorist group. Then Sephy's parents sack Callum's mother, driving his family into even more desperate straits; Jude detonates a bomb that almost kills Sephy's family; Sephy accidentally gets Callum arrested, leading to Ryan taking the fall for the crime, and he's murdered under the orders of Sephy's father.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Jack smothers Danny in the hospital with a pillow, to make his death seem like a result of the injuries the police inflicted on him and incite the Noughts into revolting from outrage over it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Liberation Militia uses methods like bombings (which kill civilians) and kidnapping relatives of government officials to fight an oppressive, racist regime which keeps the Noughts as second-class citizens living in their own land. Even some who agree with their goals find these means unacceptable.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Liberation Militia fight to end the racist oppression of Albion, but do so using tactics like bombing hospitals. Many Noughts view them as heroes, but naturally they're called terrorists by the Cross government.