The Great Sperm Race Review: Come Again?!

March 23, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

THE GREAT SPERM RACE, Monday 23rd March, Channel 4, 9.00pm Alert Me

As a swirling baby tornado gives way to a close up of a giant blue anaconda-esque sperm cell, you would be forgiven for thinking that The Great Sperm Race was directed by a ketamine-induced Trance DJ. But stick with it, it’s probably the best science lesson you’ll ever have.

By performing the “super size me? ritual on man’s true best friend, The Great Sperm Race allows us lazy mortals to comprehend the “epic journey? that leads to conception, making one realise just how unique we really are. Although some of the terminology does make for hilarious viewing, The Great Sperm Race is following in the footsteps of Anatomy for Beginners and proving Channel 4’s continued commitment to great medical documentaries and high quality programming in general.

At times the narration drifts into the realms of Peter Dickson-ville (the ruddy great voiceover man from E4) as we are warned that, for the sperms, there’s “no turning back, no surrender and only one winner?. It sounds a bit like The X Factor for single-celled organisms. My favourite quote for sheer atmosphere-conjuring ability has to be: “Landing in Emily’s vagina is like D Day?. Apparently the life of a sperm is much more treacherous than we first thought. They are like the Steven Seagals of the microbiological world, so strong, yet so misunderstood.

As much as I think every teenager would benefit from watching The Great Sperm Race, conversely, it might be dangerous for a couple of reasons. Firstly, by painting the picture of the Mission Impossible sperm, thwarted at every turn by poor timing, imminent death and contact with Leucocytes (white blood cells that defend the vagina against foreign bodies, instantly recognizable given their “masks and jumpsuits? affinity with Slipknot), the chance of impregnation appears minimal. The UK’s teenage pregnancy problem is bad enough without this encouragement.

Secondly, the documentary does no favours for the bottom-feeding, loafer wearing reputation of the scientist. I am certain that the Godfather of Microbiology, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek did not develop the microscope so that Dr Allan Pacey could be blown away by the athletic ability of his own sperm and then talk about it on national TV.

On the whole, my reproductive knowledge has been significantly enhanced by The Great Sperm Race; it contains a few interesting factoids that may help couples trying to conceive (look out for the phrase “gourmet sex?) and even champions the female orgasm (hurrah!)

Sure to be shown in Biology classrooms all over the country, followed by a flurry of fifteen year old males guffawing over the “miracle of engineering in [their] pants.?

Sally McIlhone