It seems as though true crime has taken over movie platforms and has intrigued viewers for some time. From the 2020 release of The Trial of the Chicago 7, to Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile starring Zac Efron, true crime can be found plastered all over Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Crave. Now, the true crime genre has taken its new form in the Peacock original TV show Dr. Death, available on StackTV in Canada. The show is originally based on the true crime podcast Dr. Death, hosted by Laura Beil, which has two seasons and can be found on Apple Podcasts. The TV show only has one season, but walks us through one of the most disastrous medical crimes to date.
Although the show is not a documentary, it is based off of the very real story and trial of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a neurosurgeon who maimed and brutally injured 31 out of his 37 patients and killed two of them.
The show takes place in Dallas, Texas, where a seemingly charismatic and charming doctor by the name of Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson) is getting recognized as a rising star in the medical community. What I found very interesting is that right off the bat I trusted what Duntsch had to say. Throughout the show, he is shown promising to change patients’ lives and to help them live essentially pain-free through his non-invasive surgical techniques. This all changes when two surgeons, Dr. Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin) and Dr. Randall Kirby (Christian Slater), come to the conclusion that Duntsch’s
motives might be more sinister.
The show takes us through Dr. Duntsch’s medical career at both medical institutes, Baylor Plano and the Dallas Medical Center, between the dates of 2011 and 2013. In that time the seemingly confident doctor is shown botching several surgeries and leaving his patients paralyzed, with severed vocal cords, and even dead.
The show can get confusing, as it jumps between the years 2011 and 2013 quite a bit, meaning that some scenes are shown at Baylor Plano, some at Dallas Medical Center, and some are shown when he opens up his own practice. I would suggest reading the story online or listening to the podcast beforehand, as I found it quite useful when the show was bouncing around.
The show not only follows Duntsch’s sloppy surgeries, but
it also follows the timeline of Dr. Kirby and Dr. Henderson’s efforts to stop Duntsch. They team up with a young lawyer (AnnaSophia Robb) and we are brought through the difficulty of trying to stop the rabid doctor on the loose. I found it very interesting that it was so incredibly hard to actually put a stop to Duntsch because he was so protected by the medical board. The whole show builds to his trial four years later in 2017.
The main question people sit with after this show is, did he intentionally do it, or was he just that incompetent? From watching the show, I think it was a little of both. Dr. Duntsch was trained properly, but the fact is that even with his confident demeanor and high grades, he was not a good surgeon, so bad in fact that he maimed patients to the point where their everyday lives were ruined. I think he knew that he was so bad that his new patients would inevitably be injured. The debate still persists though: is Dr. Duntsch a narcissistic psychopathic killer, or just a doctor so bad he became a criminal?
Overall I rate this show a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is intriguing, and intense at times. It also depicts a very real situation which makes it more unsettling, the only aspect I was not a fan of was the bouncing between timelines. I would recommend this show to anyone interested in true crime.