We all tuned in to the blockbuster hit series Chernobyl on Sky, gawping in horror at one of history’s most catastrophic nuclear disasters. And now it’s time to remove HBO’s expensive lens, and visit the town of Pripyat with history at the heart, and Ben Fogle guiding the way.
This is unlikely to be the first Chernobyl doc you’ve watched, and we get it if you’re not quite convinced you want to sit through more grey, gloomy, eerie shots of that swing set and the ferris wheel that got stuck in time. But with Ben Fogle at the helm, we really recommend this enlightening and gripping doc.
He takes us on a tour of the site, through the exclusion zone, the socialist town where the nuclear power plant’s workers lived, the schools their children learnt in, and the parks they would play in afterwards. And this being proper Fogle fare, we meet the people who have their own personal tale to tell – the most remarkable being those few families who returned after the disaster, refusing to give up their home.
These people come off a lot better than the #influencers that have been squatting in the exclusion zone in a never-ending desperate and depraved search for likes. Have they not heard of radiation poisoning? Luckily we soon forget about these individuals when we see how wildlife has flourished against it all, becoming a safe habitat for wolves, lynxes and bears.
With this combo of wildlife, human stories and a strange and striking setting, Fogle is in his element, guiding us through without ever making it about himself. Plus, he stands in the exploded reactor number four looking entirely fearless, which we’ve got to commend him for. Team Must would be shaking in our wee boots.
Writing for iNews, Ed Power called this documentary “haunting and soulful,” saying “Fogle’s inquisitiveness was infectious, whether he was talking to a selfie-seeking trespasser or interviewing an old lady who had moved back to Chernobyl.” Carol Midgley of The Times worried that Fogle would take up too much airtime talking about himself, but after viewing praised the presenter, saying “although Fogle was indeed front and centre throughout, it was in a ballsy and fascinating way.”
First shown February 2021.