I was fascinated to watch the Channel 4 documentary yesterday, Titanic – The New Evidence. Too many documentaries seem intent on putting forward someone’s pet theory without backing it up with convincing evidence. But this programme used recently-discovered photographs which – according to the experts interviewed – contain plausible evidence of the serious fire in the coal bunkers on board. This suggestion was backed up by documentary evidence, mostly testimony from the official enquiry.
One of the worst faults of all in so-called documentaries is the practice of putting forward a theory – however far-fetched – and then claiming to have proved that it’s correct, when in fact they have done nothing of the sort. So we hear the likes of: ‘We know the castle burnt down, we know that Henry VIII visited the town that year, so we can safely say that he’s the one who did it”. (I exaggerate, of course, but not much).
Back to the Titanic documentary: the technique of blending archive still photographs with moving reconstructions is impressive. But I worry a little that this technique, in the wrong hands, could be used to “prove” pet theories by “recreating” events that never happened, or at least didn’t happen quite like that. But then I’m a natural worrier, especially when it comes to historical accuracy.