Body Story takes viewers on a breathtaking voyage into the most amazing organism on earth, the human body. With a seamless blend of drama and computer animation, each episode tells the story of a critical moment in a human life. The results are revelatory and visually stunning.
"It was inspired by that wonderful old movie "Fantastic Journey", in which Raquel Welch and a bunch of scientists get shrunk down to five inches tall and take a space ship through a body." So says Alex Graham, director of "Body Story", in which everyday dramas are juxtaposed with the effects that these dramas have inside us.
The six-part series takes several incidents, from a car crash to puberty, and follows their results. "We chose everyday subjects," Alex explains. "Things that will definitely have happened to people such as puberty or being a baby, and also things which could happen, like a car crash or a severe reaction to a wasp sting. A wasp sting may sound mundane, but if it is a bad one the effects on the body are stunning. We wanted to dramatise the events on the inside. We knew that, with computer graphics improving all the time, we could make something such as the actions of the immune system seem really immediate and gripping."
Rather than just show what happens inside the body during a crisis or a life change, each episode follows different characters to see what is happening on the outside too. So, in episode two, a couple of youngsters go through the spots, wet dreams and embarrassing protuberances of puberty while starring together in the school production of Romeo and Juliet. And in episode six a young woman's holiday in the US is plagued by a horrible ex-boyfriend and a giant wasp. "We wanted to harness the power of popular drama to get the science across," Alex says. "We wanted people to sit down and enjoy the show, and maybe learn something - almost by accident. Though we made the decision not to have a string of scientists being interviewed on screen, the science in the programme is pretty cutting edge. To actually show the immune system working makes it a lot clearer than even the most brilliant expert explaining it would."
It is the quality of the graphics driving the narrative along that brings the series to life. In the case of the hour-long crash, which opens the series, the trauma is quite intense. "The series is broad in tone," Alex says, "From the light-hearted to what is quite scary. For the graphics we collaborated with The Moving Picture Company. We went to the scientists to identify authentic images from electron microscope photographs. We storyboarded the sequences and then looked at the rough graphics that the company came up with before deciding on the final look. I think the graphics are so good that they make a sperm in Teen Dreams seem like one of the characters. They help continue the drama, rather than simply acting as an illustration."
The first edition entitled "Crash", focuses on what happens when our bodies experience a car crash. Using actors playing out a narrative story, and sophisticated computer graphics to enhance this journey of discovery, Body Story follows Laura and David, who are involved in a car crash on their way to a wedding.
The impact of the crash affects the two victims in different ways, leading to two very different medical scenarios and methods of healing and recovery. Laura's spleen swings violently out of position, rupturing a blood vessel that causes the membrane around the spleen to swell. David's injuries appear to be more serious: his brain slams against his skull, severing connections and disrupting signals right up to the vital brain stem, whereupon his conscious brain switches off completely, as a mechanism of self-preservation.
As the ambulance arrives to take them to hospital, so begins the compelling process of self-healing, and the medical diagnosis and treatment which combine, ultimately, to save both Laura and David's life. The build up of blood in David's skull from a burst artery squeezes his brain, crushing the area that is responsible for his vital reflexes. The surgeon has around three minutes to open up his skull and remove the clot, before his brain cells are fully starved of blood and he dies. In a gripping scene, it is touch and go, but the surgeon manages to save him, at least for now"
Laura, however, is in deeper trouble. A consistently bleeding artery keeps filling up the spleen membrane, until it bursts, filling her belly with blood. The surgeon is unable to find the source of the bleeding as he cannot see the organ, and is literally forced to feel his way around her stomach. He locates the artery and seals it, whilst saving part of her spleen, and therefore preserving her immune system.
Once the surgeon has done all he can, it is down to Laura and David's bodies to continue the miraculous process of self-healing. No amount of medical attention can recreate a memory after the amnesia caused by a coma. They owe their lives to the medical team that was on hand to save them, but ultimately it is their bodies' remarkable capacity to heal that will eventually allow their full recovery.
Having already garnered awards for its animation, this is the second series of Body Story, following the highly successful and critically acclaimed first series broadcast in Autumn 1998.
Genre: Scientific Documentary
Database last updated: 20 January - 07:00