Spent the weekend writing things that needed being writ. Was still tocking away on the laptop last night as we settled in to watch telly. And one week before the return of Droo, cor, isn’t telly good?
First off, Tiger – Spy in the Jungle in which elephants filmed tigers being peed on by monkeys and having a scrap with bears. I remember when how they filmed nature documentaries was a separate programme, but these days the mechanics is just as much part of the show as the efforts not to anthropomorphise. And naw, hooza fuffy meow-cat?
Then Casualty 1907, a drama based on real cases from east-end hospitals just a century ago. For all it’s standard cops-n-docs with lashings of frocks and stiff collars, it scores many points for being so unpleasant. As I argued last week, the past is all a bit horrid. The Dr couldn’t watch David Troughton treating a broken leg, where he left splinters of bone lodged in the soft tissues for fear of doing more damage trying to fish them all out. And with the gangs and booze and squalor it helped give the lie to the idea that the country is now going to the dogs.
I also liked the use of a medical sun lamp to treat blemished skin – and the juxtaposition of the doctors’ own excitement about modern technology and lady smokers, and our own horror from What We Know Now. We were asked at a panel at Gallifrey to come up with new Droo spin-offs and I suggested a late Victorian Torchwood – where they’d be scandalously racy by seeing each other’s wrists. And that’s exactly the sort of thing I would have done: wireless telephony and women having opinions all part of the wild sci-fi madness.
Having watched the headlines (and does it strike anyone else as odd that planes crashing into houses doesn’t happen more often?) the Dr asked to watch Torchwood. Yes, she asked to watch it. Voluntarily. Because she’s got into it this year. I can’t think of any higher testament to how splendid this season has been.
Thought Fragments brilliantly rationalised and explained things I didn’t like about series one. We understand why Owen was a pathological shagger, what with having been so shagged by life. I liked how Ianto’s story didn’t mention but fitted round Cyber-girlfriend, and how Tosh (my favourite character, by the way) came to be studying space-pig for UNIT while at the same time being Torchwood.
(Nimbos, meanwhile, specualtes that Bernard Cribbens may be ex-UNIT, based on his having a red hat and a winged-looking badge. We shall see…) Am very excited about the Torchwood finale – though please no spoilers if you’re watching it live; I shall be out clubbing. (See how I slipped that in there, like I am still among da yoof?)
Then Storyville, in which Henry Marsh used an ordinary Bosch hand drill to do brain surgery on a conscious man. The documentary about his efforts to help with neurosurgery in the Ukraine made less of his opposite number being called Igor, and of the drill being low on batteries, than the news story implies. But the conscious patient’s sudden fit mid-operation was edge-of-seat appalling.
The Dr again couldn’t watch much of this and despairs at the consultant’s son who is twistedly unsqueamish. I am quite content watching the inside of people’s brains and faces, and am happy eating spaghetti bolognese in front of a TV screen that seems to be showing the same. It’s the threat of pain that gets me. The Dr once thought it hilarious when I went white at a description of Samuel Pepys being cut for a bladder stone. But as much as that was to do with having your old chap macheted open, it was the horror that Pepys probably only survived because his wife was rather house-proud. As a result, the dining-room table on which the op was done had been freshly scrubbed that morning.
Likewise, Marsh was dead-eyed in horror at conditions in the Ukraine, and it was heart-rending to see the long queue of patients, so grateful even when nothing could be done. Medicine is full of grisly drama about young and pretty people who just cannot be saved, but there was a constant awfulness that if the same cases were seen in the UK, something better could be done.
How much we take our own health service for granted. And how much we stand to lose. Marsh’s tetchiness often came from the stress of trying to help people despite monumental odds. But it was far more bitter and despairing at how petty empire building and office politics too often got in the way. That’s something where I suspect we are no better than the Ukraine.
The final part of the documentary saw Marsh and Igor guests of honour in the home of a patient they didn’t save – one Marsh seemed to say he’d made a grievous mistake with. After the brutal, unreasonable sickness and conditions we had witnessed, there was an incredible added weight to them drinking each others’ healths.