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TV Review: Donor (episode of Moving On)

28 November 2011
Appeared in BioNews 635

'All I want is some bodily fluids, are you really going to begrudge me that?'

'Donor', the third episode in BBC One's contemporary daytime drama series 'Moving On' tackled issues of infertility, sperm donation, parenthood and the societal expectation on women to become mothers.

Written by Shaun Duggan, the story focuses on Christina (played by Sally Phillips), a 'life and soul of the party' character whose outlook on life has changed since she turned forty and started to hear her biological clock ticking. She has been trying to conceive with her partner Andy (played by Paul Rhys) for over a year, but to no avail. We are taken on an emotional journey with Christina, which starts when Andy reveals to her that the reason they cannot get pregnant is because he is infertile and has been for many years. Shocked and upset by this news, Christina has a difficult decision to make: does she stay with Andy and accept that she might never become a mother or does she walk away and risk ending up with nothing?

In the end, she decides to stay with Andy. But her desire to have her own baby does not weaken. After being put off by the high price of IVF, Christina approaches her gay best friend Mick as a possible sperm donor. She sees it as a win-win situation: he does not have any children of his own and has talked before of his sadness that his family name will die with him. Nonetheless, Mick is shocked by the request, first passing it off as a joke before deciding to give it some thought.

From there the story cleverly shifts to focus on Mick and his views on fatherhood. We watch him battle against his resignation towards ever becoming a father and, later, pondering what fatherhood actually means. Most of all we see him weighing up his wants and desires against those of his best friend. He concludes that if he was ever to become a father, he would want to be in the child's life full-time. In a particularly affecting scene, we see the hope drain from Christina's eyes when Mick gives his answer. Christina tries desperately to solve the problem by suggesting he could move closer, but Mick is not satisfied with this.

And so Christina is forced to face to the reality that having a child is not an option for her, that Mick was her last hope of becoming a mother. There is some touching, thought-provoking dialogue when Christina tells Mick how becoming a mother is drilled into girls from the moment they are born, how they just assume that by being given a toy pram and toy dolls to play with and practising changing nappies, that they would be doing it for real one day. I really liked how this message was portrayed, that the societal expectation of being a mother is sometimes not the reality. It highlights the real issue of women leaving it until later in their lives to have children. I liked how Mick's character was used to show Christina that being a mother is not every woman's path and that she could be happy having a loving partner and friends around her.

The 'Donor' storyline was a brave attempt to challenge the idea that all women should become mothers and suggest that it is in fact okay if some women don't. This is especially well illustrated in the juxtaposition between Christina and her friend, a mother with another child on the way. When we initially meet Christina's friend at her daughter's second birthday, we see the doting mother and idyllic family setting, which Christina looks in on longingly. However, further on in the story when Christina is starting to accept that perhaps motherhood is not for her, we return to her friend's house after the birth of her second child and are shown the reality of parenthood: the hard work, lack of sleep and loss of independence. It is only then that Christina, a committed party girl, realises that perhaps her lifestyle would not suit having a baby after all.

'Donor' was a very interesting drama that provided a thought-provoking look at the emotional side of infertility and the obstacles that some women may have to overcome in their desire to have a baby. The cast did well to portray this often taboo subject in a light-hearted but sincere manner.
Donor: Moving On, series three
BBC One |  17 November 2011
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