A two-part TV programme about author Terry Pratchett’s battle with Alzheimer’s disappointed Andrew Mickel
Terry Pratchett – Living with Alzheimer’s
Authored documentaries are an excellent way to let personal experiences show a viewer around a complex and difficult topic. But that fails as a format when the person – in this case, fantasy author Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the end of 2007 – puts little of himself, emotionally, into the programme.
Something must have been lost in translation through the medium of TV. Pratchett has given £1m to researching the disease, which hints at this depth of feeling.
But the programme’s title was misleading. Pratchett’s family, for example, chose not to feature. Fair enough, although it’s difficult to see how realistically it hoped to portray Alzheimer’s without showing the emotional burden of the condition on those who live with him.
Pratchett himself did not speak about his own fears for the future, and so far has few symptoms to document, although he’s lost the ability to touch-type and struggles with putting on a tie. The only emotions on show were those of other sufferers he met and took up little more than 10 minutes of the two hour-long programmes.
There are far more interesting personal testimonies, including that of Heather Roberts, who has appeared on the cover of Community Care. She offers more information on how to cope with the condition and what it means to live inside Alzheimer’s than in the TV programmes.
During the documentary Pratchett tried all sorts of alternative treatments for the disease, notably the helmet that fired lasers into his brain to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s. This may have reflected Pratchett’s desperation to find a cure for himself. If this were the case, it would have been beneficial for the viewer to know.
Without that sort of insight, the show seemed more interested in Pratchett the person than in promoting awareness of Alzheimer’s.
➔ Community Care coverage of Heather’s story
This article is published in the 19 February edition on Community Care under the headline “Lack of documentary evidence”