Drama as Science Documentary: The Ethics of Making and 'Banning' The Black Pool



Rolinson D (2017) Drama as Science Documentary: The Ethics of Making and 'Banning' The Black Pool. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 37 (1), pp. 96-112.

This article explores ‘The Black Pool’, a docudrama which was made for the BBC’s science documentary series Horizon (BBC2, 1964-present) but never transmitted. Aiming to provide a case history of paranoid schizophrenia, Horizon commissioned Alan Plater to dramatise an ‘autobiographical document’ by a doctor who murdered three children in 1972. Its makers debated the most appropriate form and style, raising issues which are relevant to current documentary scholarship in ethics and affect. Similar issues were raised by BBC executives who decided not to broadcast the completed programme. This period produced several programmes which were banned, delayed or not completed, but ‘The Black Pool’ and the circumstances behind it are not well-known. This article draws from a range of sources, including a new interview with director Simon Campbell-Jones, previously-unseen archival documents and a viewing of the untransmitted programme, not merely to uncover a ‘banning’ but to reflect on ethical and affective questions in current scholarship and to address the nature of science documentary and science docudrama. The article contributes to studies of ‘forgotten drama’ both in terms of this unseen and largely undiscussed programme and in terms of a neglected, specialised culture of drama in documentary strands in general and science documentary strands in particular.

Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television: Volume 37, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2017
Publication date online19/04/2017
Date accepted by journal11/12/2016
PublisherTaylor and Francis

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Dr David Rolinson
Dr David Rolinson

Lecturer, Communications, Media and Culture