The art of documentaries: BBC Panorama: Ebola Frontline

When we hear words like ebola, foot and mouth, bird flu, malaria… it can be hard to actually visualise what that actually means for sufferers and, in the case of ebola right now, the scale. You can turn on your tv and have documentaries, news bulletins and charity adverts forcing opinions at you and telling you how you must react in a particular way. Just look at BandAid30.

It’s not often that we see a documentary that isn’t overly edited or staged, that isn’t going for the most extreme reaction they can inflict. However in BBC Panorama: Ebola Frontline the reality of ebola, it’s spread and impact, seems very truthfully and organically told.

The programme shows Dr Javid Abdelmoneim‘s four week voluntary service in Sierra Leone caring for victims of ebola in a treatment centre. With a specially adapted camera fitted to the doctor’s goggles we are taken into the contamination areas and shown just how ebola affects patients, and the immediacy of death in such places. Both sides of this are seen, from a child suffering the worst symptoms and being given drugs to ease the pain before his death, to a father seemingly recovering dying without any warning at all. It is particularly striking to see patients dead in such normal positions, such as bending over to put on shoes or resting on a bed, and it is most unexpected.

Equally you see the joy of those clear of ebola, recovered and able to return to their families… or at least what’s left of them. It seems to very truthfully show the scale of the epidemic and the poor infrastructure that doctors are having to deal with, whilst at the same time showing an individual’s reaction to what is going on around him.

The programme is still on BBC Iplayer and is compulsive viewing. I understand far more of the illness, the anonymity of victims’ deaths, their status as biohazards buried under a number, and the unpredictable nature of ebola through this documentary than through any of the adverts or news articles I’d seen to date.


Children in Need and the celebrity choir

For those not in the UK, BBC Children in Need is a massive charity event that happens annually culminating in a national broadcast on the second Friday in November. In the weeks leading up to the broadcast schools, clubs, individuals across the UK take part in fundraising events, with the proceeds going to the charity, their vision being that every child in the UK has a safe, happy and secure childhood that allows them the chance to reach their potential.

It is incredible the volume of famous faces that get involved and this year is no different. For the official Children in Need single choirmaster Gareth Malone created a choir of celebrities to record and perform a cover of Avicii‘s ‘Wake Me Up’. Comedians, presenters, a Strictly Come Dancing judge, actors, actresses…. and a host of kids as well.

Let’s be honest, no one was expecting much, but somehow they managed to be worse than anyone thought. Luckily, with a boost of confidence, a bit of coaching and a lot of hard work they gradually began to realise what being in a choir meant. They started to work together, listen to each other and by the time they got to recording they were sounding a lot more like a choir.

That doesn’t mean that the recording wasn’t hard work. It really looked and sounded like it was. But they got there and the track sounds really good, definitely worthy of being the official BBC Children in Need single. Gareth Malone really shows that anyone, no matter how much experience or confidence they have in the first place, can sing and can sing in a choir.

It’s great to see people discovering a love of singing and despite initial nerves you can tell that they are enjoying themselves on stage while performing the song. It’s such a great track involving so many great celebrities and kids, as well as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Please go check it out and if you feel compelled to, donate to Children in Need, it’s a great cause and they do brilliant work.

The Master Returns? (contains spoilers)

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t watched this series of Doctor Who and don’t want spoilers then don’t read this post! Just go watch it… ASAP.

Since Doctor Who’s return with Christopher Eccleston I have grown to love the show. I’ve seen four regenerations and the demise of the Master… or had I?

All season we’ve been teased with who the mysterious Scottish woman is and last week she was revealed as Missy… aka The Master… aka The Mistress! Brilliant!

Moffat’s decision to bring back The Master adds a whole other dimension back into the programme, and the decision to bring The Master back as The Mistress is a serious development! It opens up the possibility that The Doctor may one day regenerate as a woman. With so many people speculating about this possibility at every regeneration I can remember, it will only add to the hype over the next, even though we are only one series into Peter Capaldi’s era. Whilst I don’t think the next regeneration will be a woman, future incarnations may well be. Goodness knows the Doctor Who fandom has gone bananas over it, just have a look at twitter or tumblr. And with the introduction of a female Doctor, could we have a male companion?

Michelle Gomez is, I think, a genius bit of casting. She is such an eccentric actress, adding a sarcasm and wit to the character that balances the dry, seriousness of Capaldi’s Doctor. There is also an aspect of her character that reminds me of River Song, and I’m interested as to how this plays out. Additionally, I liked how in the same series they’ve mirrored a Scottish Doctor with a Scottish Mistress.

I think the introduction of a female Master is a huge step forward for Doctor Who and I’m excited to see what direction the series heads in from now on.

But what do you think? Are you excited that The Master/Mistress has returned?