Almost at the start, Gilchrist Muir—here inhabiting the tweed suit of our lecturer, Glasgow University-based Theoretical Zombiologist Dr Ken House—insists that Zombies are not real. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be prepared, however; the following hour proves to be a speedy, entertaining and generally thought provoking exploration of how modern science identifies and deals with any disease outbreak. (As well as how brutal some kids in the front row can be.)
Muir hardly ever pauses for breath—he comes across as the very embodiment of the slightly nervous, but terribly enthusiastic, academic
Certainly, there’s the whiff of a Royal Institute’s Christmas Lecture here, especially when Muir invites a younger audience member onstage to show how dirty their visibly washed hands can be under UV light. (Admittedly, the Donald Trump references wouldn’t get past the BBC’s editorial gatekeepers.) Yet the audience participation certainly isn’t gratuitous. It’s all part of how this show, devised by Time-Tastical Productions to help explain difficult science to the general public, easily introduces the scientific methodology used to identify sources, the means by which outbreaks spread, and how we can now use DNA analysis to devise a cure.
On several occasions, Muir gives the audience opportunities to decide the “official” approach to dealing with the titular Zombie outbreak. This is when some younger audience members betray a decided tendency to favour “kill” over “cure”, suggesting an overt familiarity with movies and TV shows which also favour a bullet in the head approach. Muir appears genuinely shocked by this; in retrospect, though, this may be a deliberate ploy on his part to make us choose the options which actually lead to the worst possible outcome—reminding us, if nothing else, that the best intentions don’t always turn out well!
Zombie Science: Worst Case Scenario has actually been around for several years now (an earlier version ran as part of the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe), which means that some of the videos used feature original lecturer “Doctor Austin”. This isn’t actually a problem, however, as it undoubtedly helps “sell” the idea of a wider scientific investigation into zombieism, and that the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies in Glasgow isn’t just a fictional one-man-band. Yes, there remains a definite comedic element to some of the videos, but they’re framed in such a way that our belief remains safely suspended.
Muir hardly ever pauses for breath—he comes across as the very embodiment of the slightly nervous, but terribly enthusiastic, academic—but it’s fair to say he quickly forms a strong connection with his audience, especially its younger members, and the result is an informative, educational and entertaining hour which definitely never outstays its welcome. What more could you ask for? Apart from, perhaps, a slightly more positive outcome for the zombie outbreak, of course!