Television review

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The Independent Culture
THE CLOSEST Doron Blake can get to someone he can call Dad is the Repository for Germinal Choice in California, a grandiosely titled sperm bank which supplied the vital fluid for the ceremony with which his mother contrived to make up for the absence of a breathing partner. In what I took to be archive film rather than a reconstruction, you saw Afton Blake seated in the lotus position, putting in a call to the psyche bank - "I invite you, oh precious soul, to come in through me, I invite you now to choose me as your mother." A semen-loaded syringe was held aloft like a host, the sacred object in this rather flakey form of incarnation. If you were wondering whether anyone could really be dumb enough to fall in love with a catalogue description (she had just confessed to her sudden infatuation with Donor 28's inventory notes), this scene supplied some corroborative evidence, as did the choice of her son's name - an anagram of "donor" which also means gifted in Greek. She wanted a child and she got a pun.

Doron himself seems to have come out of all this remarkably composed, easy in his mind about his father's reluctance to become more closely involved with the fruit of what can literally be described as a college hand-job - a way for a bright student to earn a few extra bucks. Not all children weather the revelation of their status quite so well, convinced that what they are will remain intangible until they know where they have come from. In Inside Story (BBC1), Desmond Wilcox considered some of those other cases, including that of Becky Peck, who had three children by two different donors (twins providing an unadvertised two-for-the-price-of-one promotion). Her daughter Lindsey, in particular, expressed a strong desire to meet David Ross, the man who had begotten her - an emotional hunger for paternity which sat uncomfortably at odds with the sharp intake of breath given by the donor himself when the word "daughter" was used. It seemed that he didn't want to be a father as much as she wanted to have one.

Wilcox once produced a series called The Visit, in which a single encounter would be used as the frame for some social issue or moral conundrum, and the narrative climax of this film was just such a meeting - one arranged between Ross and the two children who had inherited his genes. In prospect this sounded like a very bad idea indeed - a fatal collision between his understandable wariness and the children's unfocused need. In the event, due partly to Ross's sensitivity and care, it was a success for the children, though perhaps less so for their mother - whose second marriage finally sundered under the strain. "David is an excellent cook, it's the first time I'd had so much help in the kitchen for a very long time," said Becky, glowing with her own new infatuation, a mood which didn't seem entirely appropriate to an occasion of such emotional hazard for her children. The trend is for more of these encounters to take place, apparently, particularly under the pressure of donor-insemination children who demand the same rights as those who have been adopted. Wilcox didn't have an admonitory disaster to show you, but, even so, his film left the wisdom of such reconciliations wide open to question.

Summer Dance: Men (BBC2) was a delightfully eccentric collaboration between the director Margaret Williams and the choreographer Victoria Marks, in which seven plaid-shirted Canadian veterans took part in something that was a cross between site-specific sculpture, a dance work and a piece of performance art. Filmed in the Canadian Rockies near Banff, it offered a series of images which couldn't readily be translated into any simple text but which carried strong flavours of mortality and the last days. Sometimes it was playful in its images - as when a trail of turf bootmarks on snow turned into ice bootprints on grass or when all seven men did a comical bit of dry-land synchronised swimming, bracing themselves to plunge into an icy river. At other times, it was more elegiac or tender - as when the men rolled boyishly in the grass or stroked each other's faces. It was pretentious, but with all the right pretensions - to be enigmatic and poetic and provocative. I liked it a lot, but I bet the boys got a fearful ribbing down at the general store if they ever showed it in Banff.