I have three excellent docudrama series to recommend. Each will take you on a deep dive into three compelling stories.
First up is Chernobyl. You can find this five-part series on HBO. Like the other two docudramas on this list, everything about it is top notch.
There aren’t many stories where a catastrophe has the potential to affect millions of people. Even with the heroic actions of hundreds of Soviet workers and scientists, the nuclear fallout from Chernobyl reached far and wide. The actual death toll is likely in the thousands, with thousands more affected by radiation exposure. But it could have been much worse.
This series looks at the disaster from the initial explosion, to the efforts to contain the damage, to a reasonably good explanation of what happened.
Because this series is for an American audience, most of the characters speak English with a Russian accent. I’d much rather have that than a film with subtitles trying to maintain accuracy.
In the end, the world’s worst nuclear disaster happened because of shortcuts taken during construction and the actions of one asshole supervisor.
Next up is When They See Us available for streaming on Netflix. This four-part series is a dramatization of the Central Park Five story. I’m not sure about the title. My best guess is that it refers to how the world viewed the Central Park Five before their exoneration.
After watching two separate documentaries about this subject, I wasn’t sure what a dramatization could add. What I discovered after watching all four episodes is that the dramatization helps paint a fuller picture. You can know the details that led to five wrongful convictions, but seeing it played out step by step adds an essential layer to the story.
What amazes me as I read and learn about wrongful convictions is how those responsible seldom admit to their errors. The prosecutors and detectives hold onto their belief that they got the right person no matter the contradictory evidence. You see this in the last episode.
Lastly, if you want to know how and why someone would confess to a crime they did not commit. Watch episode two. We know that the techniques used by the police can and do lead to false confessions. Countries that have abandoned these practices have seen a dramatic drop in wrongful convictions. We need to do the same.
Last on my list is the six-part series The Hot Zone, available for streaming on the National Geographic channel. Based on the best selling book by Richard Preston, The Hot Zone tells the story of an Ebola outbreak in 1989.
The Hot Zone is yet another story that involves the potential deaths of thousands of people, this time from a deadly virus. I’m only half way through this one, but I wanted to add it to my list to make sure I mention it before it’s gone.
Ebola has a 90% kill rate. The virus is easily spread through bodily fluids, meaning an infected person who sneezes can infect anyone nearby. Put an infected individual on an airplane, and a deadly virus can quickly become uncontainable without swift action.