TV Review of Network First

Cloning

Network First's documentary about cloning (ITV) offered a textbook example of the way in which the content of a film can be at odds with its style. Christopher Martin's film was the original source of the recent press reports about Dolly - woolly harbinger of dystopian horror if you believe the pessimists, bleating pioneer of a dazzling medical future if you take the optimistic line. And now that the foam of reflex hysteria has crashed on to the beach, the documentary itself brings up the rear - by and large sober and judicious in its explanations, at least at the verbal level.

It sketched in the background to genetic research and the possible medical applications, as well as the ethical disquiets these advances arouse. In its structure, there was no question that it had taken on an advocate's role - it swiftly introduced the sort of children who might benefit from improved gene therapy (sick children being a notoriously resistance-crunching tactic) and it even offered a benign sylvan alternative to those visions of brigades of Saddam Husseins marching in lockstep across the land. A group of bereaved parents were planting a memorial wood, each sapling representing a dead child and each sapling cloned from the Great Oak in Sherwood Forest. Not all of the reassurances offered were entirely successful - Robert Winston, for example, brushed away fears that insurance companies might use genetic testing to create a society of genetic haves and have- nots: "To my mind", he said, "that's pretty fatuous, because it doesn't show a good understanding of how genes actually work." But whoever said insurance companies had to behave reasonably? Given that they already discriminate on the basis of postal codes, it seems unlikely that they would draw the line at biological ones; and it would be scant consolation in such circumstances to know that they were acting fatuously.

On the whole, though, Network First worked to placate unreasonable fears. As if to press home its point, after some concessions to the anxious in the final third of the programme, it concluded with the sight of two small boys suffering from MPS, a genetic disorder which results in stunted growth, brain damage and premature death. There could hardly have been a more vivid demonstration of the perversity of giving more argumentative weight to imaginary monsters than the deforming sadness of real diseases. The hopes of the doctors in the programme, even when expressed with some caution, brought home to you the fact that we are living right now in the future's unregretted past, a time to which people may well look back and say, "Thank God I didn't live then - before gene therapy was perfected."

All the more strange, then, that the film should resort so often to established television shorthand for scientific dread. It began with a sheep anaesthetised on an operating table, and supported that vaguely disquieting surrealism with an X Files soundtrack, a familiar combination of menacing chimes and icy sostenuto. As the film proceeded, research was consistently represented by the visual vocabulary of the mad scientist's lab - frothing beakers spilling out a sinister mist, the inhuman robotic motions of automated equipment, even, most striking of all, a carefully modernised version of the levitating spark indispensable to Thirties horror movies. As the voiceover intoned the fateful words "The moment when life is created", you cut suddenly from microscopic film of a human egg to a flashing oscilloscope. The soundtrack fizzed with the sound of an electrical arc.

This was not a detail the film-makers had stumbled across in their travels - oscilloscopes don't make such a noise unless you make them and, in any case, it's hard to imagine one being employed in the procedure being filmed. This image had been created quite specifically to say "Frankenstein" without actually having to voice the word. While the spoken text of the programme was in effect telling you to calm down, the visual images were prying loose buried associations of superstition, the primitive sense of transgression so often evoked by advances in knowledge. Perhaps this is now assumed to be the only currency with which the general public can be bribed to watch a work of scientific exposition.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable