CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: The superhuman scientist whose full-time job is trying to cheat death

Peter: The Human Cyborg 

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Fort Salem 

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Robotics scientist Peter Scott-Morgan might be the most cheerful man in the world. ‘Taking on the world is a hobby,’ he says with a broad grin. 

‘This is a hugely exciting time to be alive. Now is when the fun begins.’

The fun he’s talking about is what many people would consider hell on earth. 

Peter, 62, has motor neurone disease, a wasting condition that has robbed him of the use of his legs. Soon he will be not merely paralysed but completely ‘locked in’, unable to move anything but his eyes.

A robotic wheelchair holds him upright, and a screen displays his boyish face as a computer voice programme supplies his speech

He breathes and is fed through tubes. A laryngectomy has left this lively, talkative man unable to speak. 

Yet he is irrepressibly happy. His body might have withered but his mental strength is superhuman.

‘Being locked in is not ideal,’ he told the camera with a chuckle at the start of the remarkable documentary Peter: The Human Cyborg (C4), before his operations. ‘It’s not what I planned!’

Instead of giving up, he set about devising technological solutions to overcome the avalanche of disabilities. 

To prevent him from choking on food, nutrients are pumped straight into his stomach. 

A robotic wheelchair holds him upright, and a screen displays his boyish face as a computer voice programme supplies his speech. 

He looks and sounds like a cross between Professor Stephen Hawking and Iron Man. 

‘Who would have thought that trying to cheat death was a full-time job?’ he says with satisfaction.

To prevent him from choking on food, nutrients are pumped straight into his stomach

The source of much of his strength is his partner of 40 years, Francis. The two men met in the early Eighties and are endlessly affectionate. 

Bubbling with excitement at the thought of being able to breathe properly again, Peter still made sure the last words he spoke before he was taken into the operating theatre were: ‘I love you.’

The way he gazed into Francis’s face made the depth of meaning clear. When the surgery was over, his lungs were well supplied with oxygen for the first time in months — but his voicebox no longer worked.

The joy in his eyes when he heard his new, electronic voice was unmistakeable. Constructed from thousands of phrases he recorded while he was still able to speak, it is even able to sing.

The source of much of his strength is his partner of 40 years, Francis. The two men met in the early Eighties and are endlessly affectionate

If all continues to go well with Peter’s inventions, this ought to be the first in a series of programmes. 

Though the title promised a ‘cyborg’, the hour mostly focused on the brave human being who was getting ready to hand over his life to untested technology.

How well it really works, and whether Peter can overcome the inevitable glitches, we will have to wait and see. 

If the dream fails, it won’t be for want of ambition. 

‘What do you want to do for the next couple of decades?’ he asked Francis. 

‘How about changing the world?’

Beside this genuine medical miracle, the magic in Fort Salem (BBC1) seems dull. 

With shades of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, the dialogue is lumpen and laden with explanations.

This American serial imagines a world where young witches train like U.S. marines to fight terrorists.

The story follows three women who enlist. One’s a rebel, one’s an innocent and one is a gung-ho patriot. Naturally, they all hate each other. 

How will they ever come together as a team, and will anyone care?

With shades of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, the dialogue is lumpen and laden with explanations. 

It’s beautifully shot though — torrents of light cascading across every angle. The director must have been watching The Handmaid’s Tale.

But this sort of U.S. teen tosh is usually relegated to channels such as E4. What it’s doing on BBC1 is a mystery.

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