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Seeds Of Deceit: The Sperm Doctor Donor review – The victims of this cruel predator deserve better than smutty jokes, writes CHRISTOPHER STEVENS


Seeds Of Deceit: The Sperm Doctor Donor

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Julius Caesar: The Making of a Dictator

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Most true-crime shows are obsessed with serial killers. But there is no word for their opposite — the weirdo who preys on his victims to create lives.

Dr Jan Karbaat, who ran a fertility clinic near Rotterdam in Holland, used his own sperm to impregnate dozens of women over more than two decades. And that’s just the starting point for Seeds Of Deceit (BBC4), a three-part investigation that spirals into strangeness like a psychedelic strand of DNA.

This subtitled Dutch documentary doesn’t merely interview some of the women who were duped and their children, now young adults who have inherited Karbaat’s wide-set eyes and broad mouth.

It attempts to recreate the creepy clinic, with a replica of the grubby tiled room where his patients were treated — and in many cases sexually assaulted or even raped.

BBC4's Seeds of Deceit is a three-part investigation following Dr Jan Karbaat, who used his own sperm at his fertility clinic in Rotterdam to impregnate dozens of women

BBC4’s Seeds of Deceit is a three-part investigation following Dr Jan Karbaat, who used his own sperm at his fertility clinic in Rotterdam to impregnate dozens of women

But the documentary-makers don't appear to consider whether they too are guilty of exploiting these mothers, whose interviews they show spliced to expose family dramas and encourage viewers to judge

But the documentary-makers don’t appear to consider whether they too are guilty of exploiting these mothers, whose interviews they show spliced to expose family dramas and encourage viewers to judge

Women were invited to lie down on the medical couch, on a sheet of disposable tissue, and to stare at the ceiling as they recalled their ordeals. These segments were intercut with images of chickens laying eggs and taps dripping. I’m going to put it down to the slightly twisted Dutch sense of humour.

Karbaat was an utter rat, there’s no doubt of that. With nine children from three marriages and others from an affair, he targeted women who were desperate for babies and exploited them mercilessly.

His insemination techniques were more suited to a cattle barn, though plainly effective — when he wanted them to be. Some women were required to attend five times a month, for up to a year: he would inject them with sterile water instead of sperm, explaining to a nurse, ‘I have to make money.’

Many of the women suspected his motives but decided to keep trusting him, though they didn’t dare tell their husbands what happened in the clinic. ‘What could I do?’ asked one. ‘I wanted children so badly.’

Tourist deadzone of the night

Visiting a derelict military complex in Albania on Abandoned Engineering (Yesterday), the voiceover wondered why this little nation on the Med isn’t a holiday hotspot. An Albanian cab driver asked me the same thing last week. It’s a mystery…

The documentary-makers don’t appear to stop and consider whether they too might be guilty of exploiting these mothers, now desperate to tell their stories. The interviews are spliced in ways that expose family fractures, heightening the drama but also inviting us to judge.

Karbaat died aged 89 in 2017, and the second episode of this double bill brought some of his grown-up children together. They compared hands and faces, but many shared more than his physical features.

A common trait, several of them agreed, was that they were highly sexed. Two of the half-brothers, on their first meeting, headed into Amsterdam’s red-light district for an adventure. 

It makes some sort of evolutionary sense that this could be a hereditary feature. But the documentary wasn’t interested in exploring that — it was just treated as a bit of a smutty joke.

If the more selfish and vicious elements of human personality are passed on, we probably inherited most of them from the Romans. Their devious nastiness is on full display in Julius Caesar: The Making Of A Dictator (BBC2).

The Romans' devious nastiness is on full display in Julius Caesar: The Making Of A Dictator (BBC2)

The Romans’ devious nastiness is on full display in Julius Caesar: The Making Of A Dictator (BBC2)

One of the villains was a senator called Clodius. ‘He’s a skunk. There’s nothing good about Clodius,’ said American professor Shelley Haley, one of the chatty historians embellishing this tale. ‘He’s a manipulator, a sociopath, a psychopath.’

Clodius didn’t last long. Most of the attention in this second episode was on the triumvirate of Pompey, Caesar and Crassus, who sound like a 1960s supergroup at Woodstock.

Their story was told with lots of slo-mo re-enactment. Swords were brandished, blood dripped, birds gazed beadily into the camera, all looking like a classic rock video. Overdone but fun.



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