ONE could not fail to be moved by the story of children
suffering life-threatening conditions, and witnessing the care
offered to them and, perhaps, even more to their parents - for once
not just by the medical teams but those who recognise that spirit
and body are integral to the whole person's well-being.
The first in the series of Children's Hospital: The
chaplains (BBC2, Mondays) did what the title said: it followed
the work of the multifaith team ministering at Birmingham
Children's Hospital. It looked in detail at three children and
their families: in two cases hoping for a cure and in the third the
determination to ensure that the short span of life left to Wilf,
suffering from a very rare growth disorder, would be as happy as
His mother spoke of the value of the services in the hospital
chapel in giving her strength and perspective; we saw the chaplains
closely involved in the lives of the families as, in acute cases,
the hospital becomes their home for as long as necessary.
Perhaps through tact or sensitivity we didn't see the really
hard moments: the times when chaplains' support is rejected; when
the enormity of suffering and loss can seem to be mocked by someone
who claims to represent a loving and all-powerful God; when their
proffered ministrations are ignored as irrelevant and valueless.
Perhaps all this will come in future episodes.
What we were left with is how little Lydia, who has made a
wonderful recovery from a potentially fatal reaction to penicillin,
insisted on saying a prayer of thanks before leaving hospital.
A far bleaker attitude to the marvels of modern medicine (at
least how they stood 200 years ago) featured
in Frankenstein and the Vampyre - A Dark And Stormy
Night (BBC2, Saturday), telling once more the tale of the
Byron/Shelley/Polidori ménage in the Villa Deodate on the shores of
Lake Geneva, and Byron's challenge on the night of 16 June 1816
that they must each write a ghost story.
Mary Shelley produced her fable of Victor Frankenstein's
monster, brilliantly weaving together the wonders of contemporary
experiments to see if corpses could be galvanised back to life, her
own grief at the loss of her dear child, and theological
speculation about what happens if we seek to usurp God's power to
create living creatures.
Dr Polidori also came up with a sensation: The Vampyre
for the first time turns Eastern European folk tales about
blood-sucking monsters into something really frightening by
recasting the protagonist as an aloof mesmeric English aristocrat,
irresistible to women. The energy that fuels this creation is that
the model is quite clearly Byron himself, whom Polidori longed to
Like Frankenstein's monster, the programme felt stitched
together: a narrator, talking heads, and dramatic reconstructions
all aimed to reconstruct the fevered atmosphere, heavy with
emotions of exile, sexual passion and loss, set in the storm-lashed
Overall, being constantly told how astonishing and amazing were
the interactions and results of that summer in Switzerland had the
effect of not heightening but paradoxically diminishing my sense of