Having spent many years both working and rotting my brain in the mostly hideous world of television it’s no surpise that a)I don’t work in it anymore and b)I can’t stand to watch much of it.
That said, I did have the good fortune to stumble across a rather sensitive and human bit of programming last night, ‘The Doctor Who Hears Voices’, a docu-drama (i.e. part documentary footage, part dramatisation) following the true story of a female junior doctor suffering from mental illness.
Ruth, diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and experiencing acute schizophrenic episodes, found herself suspended from her NHS job after admitting that she frequently felt suicidal. What she purposefully didn’t mention to her employers, knowing full well that it would have almost certainly resulted in the termination of her contract, was that she was also hearing voices. Specifically, a male voice, urging her to kill herself and sometimes even the people around her.
I’d like to know if the calculated decision Ruth made to be economical with the truth (effectively in an attempt to put something right that she didn’t quite have full – if any – control over) had people up in arms, aghast, staring indignantly at their TV screens thinking that this dangerous deception should be dealt with by simply having Ruth carted off to the nearest nut house.
Therein lay the crux of the film. We didn’t only follow how Ruth’s illness affected her personally, but viewed an entirely bigger picture relating to the attitudes and methods people subscribe to when confronted with the eternally baffling and deeply complex make-up of mental illness – especially when the person in question appears for the most part to be an intelligent, competent and pleasant individual.
With the help of controversial psychologist Rufus May, Ruth embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-deception, laying down firm foundations with which she is eventually able to stabilise her thoughts and emotions.
Throughout the film many pockets of psychiatric health care that so badly need looking at are dealt with, from the use of forced sedation to lazy subscription of medication to those who might not benefit from or even truly need it. A largely unpopular decision for many other psychiatrists, Ruth manages to steer well clear of medication throughout her therapy with Rufus. Employing rather more unorthodox approaches than the total personality wipe out that SSRI’s provide, Rufus prefers to talk directly to the ‘voice’ in Ruth’s head in the hope of uncovering more leads.
With a gentle tenacity Rufus relentlessly and objectively works on and with Ruth, to surprisingly positive results – ultimately getting very close to the bottom of her disturbances and even back into work once more.
All in all ‘The Doctor Who Hears Voices’ was a pleasure to watch. Director Leo Regan has no doubt been showered with praise by the UK press today for his touching and thought provoking film (even if it is only in the form of a ‘Last Night’s Telly’ column). Pleasant as this review is I wonder what he makes of the critics’ particularly careless and flippant closing salvo (or am I a bit too sensitive about the subject?).
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –
So, with the rare and scant bright side of TV dealt with, let’s take a moment to consider the dead-eyed occupants of television’s lower echelons, otherwise known as Light Entertainment, or more annoyingly ‘LE’.
It’s no secret that Britain’s Got (a veritable plethora of) Talent (dancing dogs, freakish child dance troupes etc) but do Britain’s Judges Got Talent?
I don’t really have much to say about this, just let’s all we have a look and see, eh?