I’ve been enjoying the authentic feel of the BBC’s ‘Ripper Street’, now well into its second season. It riffs on quite a few genuine bits of history, and the writing uses believably archaic turn of phrase. Having seen the latest episode involving early electrical pioneers, I was surprised to see this blogger pour scorn on the scene involving the electrocution of a goat for corporate propaganda purposes. I was pretty sure something similar really happened, and sure enough, it did;

“The dogs and cats, he said, were purchased “from eager schoolboys at twenty- five cents each and were executed in such numbers that the local animal population stood in danger of being decimated.” 

-Craig Brandon’s 1999 book, The Electric Chair: An Unnatural American History, p.74

Many more animals were killed in this way by Edison’s staff. In fact goats were about the only species spared. As for being “a bit much”, the makers already censored the real history by using farm animals rather than the domestic pets and zoo animals that the real-life Edison really did use to further his business ends. 

A show like Ripper Street isn’t going to get everything right, but this was actually a damn good go, undeserving of this sort of emotionally motivated criticism.

2 thoughts on “Shocking

  1. I’ve been busy and missed the recent episodes, but loved the first series. The only things that jarred with me were the anachronistic amphetamine (I see Vanessa Heggie spotted that one too) and a feeling that – presumably in aid of historical feel – some dialogue was unrealistically formal. I can’t remember any specifics, but it was at the level of a working-class London character saying something like “If such a man were to partake of libations there, I should consider him highly unwise.”

    1. You might be right Ray, but I have the impression (hard to confirm due to a lack of written history from that social sector) that ‘even’ working class people 100 years ago would have sounded formal to our ears.

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