You just gotta love something with "Contains disturbing images and medical situations" printed on the box - ready for some self-inflicted pain, Botox, and disgusting pictures of open sores?
The BBC documentary series The Story of Medicine: Pain, Pus & Poison presents its findings in the manner of that straining-to-be-hip science teacher you had in high school - similar to its cousin on PBS, Nova. Across all three installments, the combo of facts and levity makes for some very informative, enlightening viewing. Like Athena's She Wolves: England's Early Queens set from 2013, this 2-DVD package helps make history accessible through concise subjects, easy-to-follow narration, and smooth delivery from a personable expert host. In this case, our guide through the world of swollen lymph glands, lab mice and uncontrollable pandemics is physician and TV personality Dr. Michael Mosley (the Dr. Oz of Great Britain?).
Despite the attention-grabbing title, Pain, Pus & Poison is a rather straightforward (yet interesting) watch. The series covers 200 years of trial-and-error in humankind's efforts to grasp where diseases come from, and continued efforts on how to safely treat them. In each hour-long episode, Dr. Mosely guides the viewer through a specific aspect of medicinal history - with an accent on Europe. Mosely's thoughts are supplemented by a variety of experts speaking on the subject, on-site visits, colorful photography, and plenty of gross-out archival footage.
The Story of Medicine's two DVDs are arranged with Pain and Pus on the first disc; while Poison shares the second disc with 27 minutes of supplementary material.
Though Dr. Mosley comes across a bit too casually at first, his enthusiasm helps make The Story of Medicine: Pain, Pus & Poison an interesting journey. Being themed around a specific topic gives each episode a certain conciseness, yet there's also a lot of variation through the use of motion graphics and specialized experts. For fans of Nova or the less alien- or paranormal-oriented content on the National Geographic and Discovery channels, this program is along the same lines.
Athena's packaging on Pain, Pus, and Poison mirrors that of She Wolves: England's Early Queens. The slip-covered set comes in a hinged, standard-width keep-case with supplementary booklet.
The digitally photographed 16x9 image on The Story of Medicine: Pain, Pus & Poison has a pleasing, color-saturated look with a good amount of detail. With 79-104 minutes' running time spaciously alloted on each disc, the mastering is nicely done with no noticeable instances of aliasing or bad compression.
The provided stereo soundtrack mix is a decent listen with crystalline dialogue and a good balance between narration and background music. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided on all three episodes.
The DVD comes with a printed Viewers Guide (measuring about 4x5 inches) which supplements the material in the programs with 16 pages of information on medical breakthroughs, life expectancy around the world, ten popular poisons and other topics. On Disc 2, a separate program called Seven Wonders of the Microbe World is included. Totaling 27 minutes in length, each short is accessible from a single menu screen. The packaging also notes the existence of discussion questions (for teachers) at AthenaLearning.com.
Suitable for high school or college curriculum - or anybody with a curiosity for the squeamish side of history - The Story of Medicine: Pain, Pus & Poison sifts through 200 years of diseases, infections and cures in a straightforward yet fun style. Icky and good. Recommended.