Growing Babies Review: How I Learned to Fear The ALMIGHTY UTERUS

December 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

GROWING BABIES: WAR IN THE WOMB, BBC 4, Thursday 4th December, 9:00pm Alert me

Demonic offspring are nothing new.

From The Omen and The Exorcist to the walking-talking contraception advert that is the Brady Bunch, it seems that for years we’ve been subliminally told that children = evil.

The latest in the Growing Babies series, War in the Womb throws an even scarier slant on the matter and sees Top Child Psychologist Laverne Antrobus investigate the idea of ‘Foetal-Maternal Conflict’. A relatively recent theory, it suggests that from the moment of conception, pregnancy is an intense period of competition between mother and baby which can influence and even prompt physical and mental disabilities in later life.

The thing is, I can’t help but feel I’ve been spoiled by Robert Winstone as I now expect captivating, moustache-twirling genius in every documentary I watch. While Dr Antrobus gets each point across succinctly, she presents with all the gravitas of a wet lettuce; a little frustrating given the fact the subject matter is inherently dramatic.

It’s genuinely fascinating to see pregnancy reduced to its primal roots and the baby adopt a debilitating, parasitic role in its fight to develop. I mean, with the way that babies are described here, it really isn’t too far beyond the realms of possibility to envisage one of the foetus’ bursting through the stomach mid-take before screeching to the heavens and scuttling off beneath the table.

While it makes sure to fill its documentary quota of ‘ooh…aaahh’ camerawork with scenes of phosphorescent sperm and gestating elephant calves, the titular ‘war’ is prevalent throughout and regularly hammered home with a number of lines that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Saw film.

Just prefix everything with “Let’s play a little game. You have ten seconds to decide, otherwise….? and you’ll see what I mean; “A thick mucus barrier will trap the weaker sperm in a vaginal acid bath? or (my favourite) “The wound will be teased by the flowery opening of the fallopian tube. And then it will burst.? Mmm.

While it may take its time in getting to the real meat of the argument, when it does it finally succeeds as an insightful, thought-provoking exploration into one of life’s eternal biological struggles. And if you can’t be arsed to sit through an hour of ‘thinky-television’, just youtube Stewie Griffith from Family Guy who managed to crystallise the entire argument in one easy go with the immortal line:

“Damn you vile woman. You’ve impeded my work since the day I escaped your vile womb.?

By Matt Risley