You may need a drink to calm down after watching Baby God (HBO Max). The true crime story evokes shock and anger, then thrusts conflicting sympathy and empathy upon you. I went from yelling at my TV to wanting to hug the participants.
Baby God is the story of a fertility doctor who set up shop in Nevada in the 1940s and proceeded to use his own seed on patients. Back then, and through his heyday of the 60s (and continuing all the way into the 80s!), Dr. Quincy Fortier believed there was no way he could ever get caught. But the times and technology eventually caught up with him.
We Are Family
The advent of DNA analysis started exposing his crimes. But it wasn’t until DNA testing for fun and profit caught on that Fortier’s legacy was able to expose how far, and violent, his crimes go. One of his kids, Wendi Babst, is a retired investigator, and is perfect to serve as our main guide through this story of violence and betrayal.
When Wendi retired, she treated herself to an Ancestry.com DNA kit. Instead of learning some quirky fact about a distant uncle or cousin, she discovered a genetic branch of her family tree she didn’t know existed.
All these Fortier matches came up. Then came a bunch of people with different last names. They all were sibling-level matches.
Eventually they start networking and sharing pics. Physically they have a lot in common (many notice their similar noses). Emotionally they’re all in different places. Each has to deal with the fact of what their biological father did, and reconcile that with the fact that they wouldn’t exist without him.
The director, Hannah Olson, does a great job of letting them tell their own stories. In a couple cases we literally see them working through the facts. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking.
But Dr. Fortier goes from being terrible to being exposed as outright evil. What truly made my blood boil was when we learned he inseminated women who weren’t even trying to get pregnant. There’s literally a virgin birth. There are also stories of him abusing his children and their friends. It’s hard to watch but impossible to turn away. Once you start, you feel obligated to let these people share their truths.
The final gut punch is: he died in good standing. His medical license still in tact, with honors and recognitions as yet unrevoked. Some of his victims and/or their ill-conceived children sued him. While the doctor settled, he forced them to sign a non-disclosure.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
I recommend you watch this sober. When the credits roll, go pour yourself a double shot of the strongest thing you have on the bar. You’re gonna need it.