I’ve watched a lot of true crime television in my day, believe me. And, if I’m perfectly honest, they kind of run together after a while. (Which is admittedly sad to think about, given that these were real people whose lives were taken.) But even as a fan of the genre, there’s the occasional show that stands out. That lingers in your consciousness, long after you’ve turned off your television (or podcast) for the night….and yes, we’re talking about Dr. Death.
Season one of Dr. Death – based off the podcast of the same name – was exactly that type of show. Yes, the limited series was a gripping eight hours or so of television. It starred a tremendously talented cast in Joshua Jackson (Fringe), Christian Slater (Dirty John), and Alec Baldwin (30 Rock). I kept wanting to scream at the television the entire time that somebody needed to stop that man, already, damn it! And, naturally, was appalled that it took as long as it did for someone to do just that.
However, Dr. Death isn’t as much about Dr. Christopher Duntsch’s crimes as it is an indictment of the system that allowed him to get away with them as long as he did. Don’t get me wrong. He absolutely committed appalling crimes against victims, and many of his victims are still living with the repercussions today. Neither they nor their stories should be forgotten.
But no crimes are perpetrated within a vacuum, and Dr. Duntsch’s certainly weren’t. Those around him who willfully turned a blind eye to his actions – who put the reputation of their institutions above the lives of the people they were meant to serve – may not have aided and abetted the so-called Dr. Death in a strictly legal sense. But they hold a certain amount of moral culpability.
He committed heinous acts against patients who trusted him. However, the doctors and administrators who turned a blind eye – even giving him glowing recommendations so he could move on to other institutions – allowed him to do it. To keep doing it, as people were irrevocably harmed by his actions. Even as people died.
It’s a different kind of true crime show. One that serves a searing indictment of an entire system while telling the story of one man. In that sense, the system that created Dr. Duntsch, allowed him to flourish, and put reputations above lives is as much of a criminal as he was. And so it isn’t truly all that strange that Dr. Death – a series given the moniker of one man in particular – could carry on beyond one season.
The recently announced second season of Dr. Death will focus on the story of “Miracle Man” Dr. Paolo Macchiarini (covered in the third season of the podcast by the same name). Dr. Macchiarini would come to be accused of…well, I won’t spoil the season before it’s even released. However, just like in the first season of the mini-series, Dr. Macchiarini’s crimes will only be one more example of the larger problem: the system that enabled him to get away with his crimes.
Dr. Death season 1 is streaming now on Peacock.
‘Dr. Death’ season 1 was as much a searing indictment of a system as a story of one man. So it isn’t that surprising that it’s been slated for a second season.