What was on Saturday 22nd November
Discovery - 9pm
Who's in it?
Superstar scientists, including the head of the London School of Tropical Medicine, delivered some disturbing truths about the virus that's currently stricken terror and tragedy across Africa.
In a nutshell
The Ebola virus has a curious place in the world's consciousness: it's frightening in an almost mythologized way, like a disease from a disaster movie. This is probably because of its bloodily catastrophic impact on the human body, and the way outbreaks can suddenly happen out of nowhere, before dying down again. In fact, Ebola has claimed only a small fraction of the lives taken by things like malaria and HIV, as this programme reminded us. It doesn't make it any less scary, though.
The history of Ebola was charted in this film, which managed to be both sober and nerve-racking at the exact same time. The very first victim was a school teacher in Zaire in 1976 – and it heralded the beginning of an African nightmare. Still, when it wasn't making us come over all doomsdayish, this documentary also soothed us with the saga of how scientists are battling to stop further outbreaks, and have even created a new discipline – Viral Archaeology – to help them take on the next, lurking nemesis that will rear its microscopic head.
What's the verdict?
This has been the year the Ebola virus became headline news again, after many dismissed it as a more-or-less bygone problem, at least in terms of its potential to cause an epidemic. So much for that idea. But it's good to know the men and women in white coats are out there and on the case.
Star rating: 4/5