Review: Head of John the Baptist | Virgin Media
Review: Head of John the Baptist

Related

Angry bearded men, brutal decapitations and forensic scientists fiddling with tiny bones were the ingredients of this (literally) heady documentary about one of Christianity’s most revered figures.

In a nutshell

Is it just us, or is there something unintentionally comical about the line, “He isn’t Jesus. He’s more popular than Jesus!” Yep, that’s really how the narrator introduced the figure of John the Baptist in this documentary – and what made it all the more cheesy/awesome was that it accompanied dramatized sequences that looked like deleted scenes from Gladiator – all sweaty guys in sepia-lit cells, brandishing shiny swords.

The hype is justified, though. John the Baptist was, for want of a better word, one of the coolest religious figures of all time. A fierce revolutionary, a defiant and fearless martyr, the Che Guevera of early Christianity. This programme masterfully blended fun docudrama sequences, in all their head-chopping glory, with hard science and genuine insights into today’s efforts to seek out the real John the Baptist, which involved analysing bones that may have actually belonged to the saint. Sumptuous old churches, sweeping Bulgarian landscapes, and maps dotted with skulls to denote where bits of John apparently are added to it all.

What's the verdict?

Melodramatic, sure, but this programme backed up the standard-issue Hollywood stuff with real revelations about the fate of a great and charismatic figure who still beguiles us to this day

Recommended for you