Media Medium
18 January 2001


Mal Content

The BBC's Mr Soap, Mal Young, is a leftwing Scouser with a chip on both
shoulders, so what is he doing at the BBC.

Mal Young, head of continuing drama at the BBC, hits all the fours, 44, and celebrates three years in the job this month. As a revolutionary Aquarian (January 26 1957), with outsider Uranus strongly placed, it is surprising to find him at home in a bureaucracy, especially as "Uranus-ruled executives are as rare as albino pandas" (Linda Goodman). Young is a Scouser, reputed to have Leftist views and a chip on both shoulders, so what is he doing at the BBC, building a reputation as Mr Soap with Holby City, Doctors and now East Enders four times a week?

Some Aquarians do have a conventional streak from Saturn's influence, but Mal Young's horoscope emphasises the bohemian end of this sign, big on idealism, brotherhood and friendship. It would be inconceivable for him not to have a guiding philosophy behind his work, especially since the inventive Aquarian Water Carrier is usually ahead of his time, carrying ideas from the future to illuminate the present. The community and the group spirit mean a lot: "the Aquarian is involved with people, humanity is his thing!" (Alan Oken).

But Aquarians sometimes lock on to unconventional ideas which they refuse to give up on principle, whatever the opposition or the evidence. Starting with his 1999 Royal Television Society Lecture, Young has come out fighting for the cause of soaps in the betterment of society. He reckons that they are educative and "can unify the nation", and that if Dickens was alive today he "would be writing popular drama for telly." Dickens, hot on social truths, was also an Aquarian (February 7 1812) and their horoscopes have some striking similarities, but Young's belief that soap counts as great drama with a social conscience has been met with derision. It does not fulfil the demand that television drama should give a voice to sections of society that do not already have one (Kamel Ahmed, Guardian 27/11/99), and even Young's own staff are said to have named his work 'Malodrama'.

The never-ending, teasing world of the soap only gives us an imagined intimacy that seldom runs parallel to our own lives. Most of us don't paralyse the local dope dealer by pushing him off a railway bridge (the current Eastenders plot), or bury troublesome people under the patio (Brookside). Here we hit a peculiarity common to Aquarians. Despite all their humanitarianism, an Aquarian is "the most lovable robot in the world, but there's a bolt missing. This tragic bolt is the capacity for intimacy" (Debbi Kempton-Smith). This is especially so in Mal Young's horoscope because he lacks water, the emotional element which engenders empathy and hooks the viewer, so despite all his clever Mr Soap ideas, he sometimes seriously loses the plot.

He could be in danger of doing so again this year. Boundless Neptune is conjunct the Sun on his birthday, dominating the year. Its self-deceptive downside could give him confusing and unattainable goals, although strong Capricorn influences - bonnet soaps and historical dramas? - bring him benefits through tried and tested formulas. But if his Aquarian social conscience is really serious, this year Neptune calls his bluff as a redeemer. Phil Mitchell handing out hot soup to the homeless? Somehow, we don't think so.

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