BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

28 October 2014

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Smallpox 2002

The Smallpox Virus

Fiction and reality collide in a future devastated by the effects of a biochemical weapon.

This docu-drama reports on a fictitious attack made by terrorists using the smallpox virus. Starting in New York the virus is ruthlessly carried out by one man travelling around the city.

Proective Bioterrorism Suit

Using hindsight and video diaries the film looks back on the global impact of a silent attack would have on the world. The actors deliver performances which, because they are essentially improvised, feel remarkably real. In some cases it's hard to distinguish between actors’ performances and the real interviews they sit alongside.

A large-scale bioterrorist attack may not have happened yet, but those who continue to regard a scenario like this as science fiction do so at their peril.  Smallpox 2002 raises the question: Are we prepared?

Producer Simon Chinn reveals how it filming began on the docu-drama.

"September 11 and then anthrax, changed everything."

Smallpox Sufferer

"We began production on Smallpox 2002 in February 2001. 'This is not science fiction', had been our mantra, this could happen. This film is not about a distant future, it’s about tomorrow. Suddenly, seven months later, bioterrorism became a reality and Smallpox 2002 acquired the kind of prescience it had never sought.

"Men in space suits appeared on the news. People rushed out to buy gas masks and antibiotics. Stories started to appear in the press about the threat posed to the world by exotic diseases such as plague, botulism and smallpox.

"It felt as if a scenario we had constructed on paper and then on film was now unfolding before our eyes. As the world panicked over anthrax I gave an interview to a magazine in Yugoslavia, a country which in 1972 experienced the last full scale smallpox outbreak in Europe. The question their reporter kept coming back to was: "Did you know something we didn’t?"

Director Dan Percival discusses the difficulties in making a docu-drama of this kind.

"With straight drama you have a huge advantage. The audience has already suspended most of their disbelief. We’re well-aware that scripted dialogue never resembles the awkwardness of spoken conversation, and only the invisible man would be privy to the intimate viewpoint a drama treats us to. But a fake documentary doesn’t have that luxury. It has to maintain the illusion of plausible reality in every respect.

"This is fantastically difficult to pull off. We knew that any crack in the believability of the film would bring the whole edifice crumbling down. Everything from the scientific facts, to the news reports, to the interviewees, to the look of a smallpox victim had to be totally authentic."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy