DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL – Tuesday 23 February, 8.30pm

We’ve all heard about people being reincarnated but why is it that these days it’s always the famous who are returning to life? Many of us suffer from delusions of grandeur and like to think of ourselves as possessing star quality, but these people really do think they’re somebody else entirely. Director Richard Macer sets out to meet the ‘celebrities’ who’ve come back a second time including Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. For Producer Richard Macer, his journey began in Bristol where he had heard the famous wizard, Merlin, had returned to life and was living in rented accommodation. George Vernon discovered he was Merlin while out fishing as a lad of 11 – voices in his head telling him “Merlin, Merlin, Merlin, you’re back. Since then Merlin found himself a hat and a silk cape and set off on an endless journey he refers to affectionately as the Magical Mystery Tour. Macer comments, “I can’t pretend I didn’t have my doubts about Merlin. He wasn’t a magician in an orthodox way like Paul Daniels. He didn’t own a pack of cards. This was a man who claimed to have created Britain’s most famous archeological site, Stonehenge, thousands of years ago. Not to be outdone with the endeavours of his prehistoric self, in this life Merlin had invented something he claimed the American military was desperate to get hold of. A machine which made you invisible.” In this film, Merlin the wizard meets up with his long lost son and a man who believes he is God wants to stop taking medication so he can keep up his work of saving mankind. Why do people claim to be the spirit of a famous person? Is it simply that they are seeking attention or are they giving their current lives a bit of meaning? Find out when Famously Reincarnated screens on the Documentary Channel, Tuesday 23rd February at 8.30pm.

DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL – Tuesday 9 February, 8.30pm

Real Love or fantasy? Second Life is a virtual world in which millions of people adopt alternative personae (avatars) and exist as individuals in a virtual reality world. It has become a global phenomenon in just three years with over 3.5 million ‘residents’. This is a film about what happens when avatars fall in love, and a fantasy starts to feel more real than reality. Carolyn, a mother of four who felt trapped in the day to day world of suburban America, was teetering on the edge of depression until she discovered Second Life. A world where she can buy things she could never afford in real life and have the body and looks of a movie star. It started as a bit of escapism until she fell in love ‘virtually’ with a man in London. And now she wants to meet him to discover if she is as in love in the real world as she is in the virtual world. Something that sounds perfectly reasonable to her, but less so to her husband Lee and their children. This is a film about people who have risked everything for the promise of a life so far only experienced on a computer screen and in their fantasies. Discover what happens when the real world and the virtual world collide.

DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL – Tuesday 2 February, 8.30pm

Two years in the making, Pedigree Dogs Exposed lifts the lid on the true extent of health and welfare problems in pedigree dogs in the UK. Seventy-five per cent of the seven million dogs in the UK are pedigrees, and they cost their owners over £10m in vet fees every week. This in-depth investigation suggests they are in serious trouble, plagued by genetic disease due to decades of inbreeding. They are also suffering acute problems because of the show-ring’s emphasis on looks over and above function and health. Some physical traits required by the Kennel Club’s breed standards have inherent health problems (short faces, wrinkling, screw-tails, dwarfism) while other problems occur because of exaggerations bred into dogs by breeders trying to win rosettes. Deliberate mating of dogs that are close relatives is common practice and the Kennel Club continues to register dogs bred from mother-to-son and brother-to-sister matings. Scientists at Imperial College, London, recently found that pugs in the UK are so inbred that, although there are 10,000 of them, it is the equivalent of just 50 distinct individuals – making them more genetically compromised than the giant panda.

“People are carrying out breeding which would be, first of all, be entirely illegal in humans and secondly is absolutely insane from the point of view of the health of the animals,” Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics, UCL. He adds: “In some breeds they are paying a terrible, terrible price in genetic disease.”

The film exposes the devastating consequences of such genetic diseases for dogs and the distress it causes their owners. It also demonstrates how some breeders produce dogs with pronounced physical attributes – “exaggerations” – in their efforts to attract a dog show judge’s eye.

Professor Jones adds, “If the dog breeders insist on going further down that road, I can say with confidence really that there is a universe of suffering waiting for many of these breeds – and many if not most of these breeds will not survive. “They will get so inbred that they will be unable to reproduce and their genes will come to a dead end.”

DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL – Tuesday 26 January, 8.30pm

Capital punishment is in crisis. After a series of high-profile botched procedures, influential pressure groups worldwide are calling out for a humane and infallible method. But does one exist? Michael Portillo attempts to use science to find one. Former British politician Michael Portillo examines the current methods of capital punishment. He finds out about the machines and the science and investigates cases where executions have gone horribly wrong. His journey takes him across Britain and America, meeting experts in the business of death, from retired executioners to toxicologists, biomechanics specialist and trauma surgeons as well as witnesses of botched procedures. But this is no mere report. Michael sets up experiments to find out amongst other things, why hangings are so easily botched, why poison gas is so cruel and the many flaws of lethal injections. After exploring the science and history behind current methods of execution, Michael moves on to researching a new way to do the deed. He meets people who have suggested alternatives themselves, examines crossovers into the fields of human and animal euthanasia and deconstructs the criteria needed for a perfect humane execution. Portillo said that he partly got involved in the programme because he thinks it likely that the lethal injection will soon be declared unconstitutional in the United States and he was amazed that no-one had done much research into the different forms of capital punishment. In his career as a British MP he voted both for and against the death penalty. He voted for it in the 1980s before changing his mind in the 1990s – as a result of several miscarriages of justice that were revealed during that decade. He thought he would probably vote against it now in Britain but respected the United States’ decision to continue with it.

“I hoped that there might be common ground in looking for a humane, painless way to do it, In fact I satisfied nobody because those who are against the death penalty don’t want its image to be cleaned up because they think that this will reduce opposition to the death penalty, and some people who are in favour of the death penalty think that it is peverse to look for a euphoric release for people who may have committed very very hideous crimes,” comments Portillo