QUEEN VICTORIA'S MEN
2 June 2008 (90 mins) / Channel 4.
Writer & Director: Rob Coldstream / Exec. Producer: Denys Blakeway.
Well-made and revealing drama documentary about the private life of Queen Victoria. Part of the "Victorian passions" series.
Starring: Verity Hewlett, Jenifer Armitage, Matt Addis.
Victorian Passions (C4).
14 July 2008 (100 mins) / Channel 4.
Timely documentary looking at how Islam's holy scripture, the Qur'an, is interpreted by modern practitioners of the faith. Reassuringly, Islam is shown to be a very diverse tradition encompassing a wide range of beliefs and practices.
Written and Narrated by Anthony Thomas.
9 Oct - 6 Nov 2008 (6x30 mins) / BBC4.
Julia Bradbury takes up her backpack once again to explore the scenic routes of some of Britain's many disused railway lines. See also "Wainwright's Walks" and "Canal Walks".
RAY MEARS GOES WALKABOUT
25 May - 15 June 2008 (4 x 60 mins) / BBC2.
Informative documentary series looking at the traditional culture and bushcraft of the Australian outback.
Written and presented by Ray Mears.
RAY MEARS'S NORTHERN WILDERNESS
25 Oct - 29 Nov 2009 (6 x 60 mins) / BBC2.
Documentary series exploring the culture and bushcraft of the Canadian wilderness.
Written and presented by Ray Mears.
A RENAISSANCE EDUCATION: THE SCHOOLING OF THOMAS MORE'S DAUGHTER
11 Aug 2011 / BBC4.
Documentary about the life and education of Margaret More, daughter of Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), chancellor of England. Under the influence of the new spirit of humanism, her father encouraged her pursuit of learning, which she undertook to a high level.
Written and presented by Dr. Helen Castor.
16-30 Nov 2010 (BBC2).
Documentary series presented by Matthew Collings and focusing on three art masterpieces painted in the Renaissance period: 1) Raphael's "The Madonna of the Meadow" 2) Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights". 3) Piero Della Francesca's "Baptism Of Christ".
RENAISSANCE SECRETS - SERIES 2
29 Oct - 19 November 2004 (4 x
30 min) / BBC2 (Open University).
A series of outstanding half-hour documentaries exploring some less well-known aspects of renaissance history: 1) Venice, a second-hand city? 2) The Italian patient. 3) Conspiring against the queen. 4) What did Guthenberg invent?
Renaissance Secrets website
2006 - 2007 / Channel 5.
Eclectic drama-documentary series focusing on historical events - both ancient and modern.
Series 1: 10 May - 28 June 2006.
(1) The man behind the Da Vinci Code (2) The Umbrella Assassin (3) The Mary Celeste (4) How England won the World Cup (5) How M & S lost its millions (6) The secret life of Elizabeth I (7) Pompeii live.
Series 2: 4 Sep - 23 October 2007.
(1) The Real Dick Turpin (2) The Aztec Massacre (3) The Great Olympic Drug Fraud (4) Auschwitz - The Great Escape (5) The Captain Bligh Conspiracy (6) The Plot to kill JFK - The Cuban connection (7) The Yorkshire Ripper - Mind of a Killer (8) The Family that Deified Hitler (9) Tutunkhamun: Secrets of the Boy King.
Revealed - series 1 (Channel 5).
1984 / Channel 4 (Border Television).
Director: Norman Fraser / Producer: Nick Evans.
Documentary series based around interviews with well known figures who have had moments of spiritual revelation - including J. Krishnamurti (Indian philosopher), Sheila Cassidy, Iris Murdoch (Author), Sarah Miles (Actress), Laurens Van der Post.
Note: There is an accompanying book, "Revelations: Glimpses of Reality" - edited by R. S. Lello. The program about J. Krishnamurti is available to view on "Youtube" and elsewhere.
Presented by Eric Robson.
RICK STEIN'S FAR EASTERN ODYSSEY
2009 / BBC2.
Fascinating tour of the Far East, revealing the everyday cuisine and cultural life of countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand.
Presented by Rick Stein.
RICK STEIN'S MEDITERRANEAN ESCAPES
8 - 23 Aug 2007 / BBC2.
Informative and evocative culinary tour of the Mediterranean featuring the authentic local cuisine of Corsica, Sardinia, Mallorca, Greece, Morocco, Turkey etc.
Presented by Rick Stein
Rick Stein's Mediterranean escapes (BBC).
RIOT AT THE RITE
11 Mar 2006 / BBC2.
Writer: Kevin Elyot / Director: Andy Wilson / Producer: David Snodin.
Invigorating historical drama about the Paris premier of Igor Stravinsky's ground-breaking ballet, The Rite of Spring. The play includes a spectacular re-enactment of the opening night performance - and the outraged reaction of the audience.
With: Alex Jennings, Adam Garcia, Aidan McArdle, Griff Rhys Jones, Emma Pierson.
RIVERS WITH GRIFF RHYS JONES
26 July - 23 Aug 2009 / BBC1.
Griff Rhys Jones canoes his way along some of Britain's rivers in a scenic and entertaining documentary. Episodes: (1) Scotland, (2) North, (3) West, (4) The Lea, (5) East.
ROYAL DEATHS AND DISEASES
3-31 Jan 2003 (5 x 60 mins) / Channel 4.
Exec. Producers: Richard Bradley, Bill Locke.
Fascinating history documentary about the health of British kings and queens throughout the ages: (1) Living by the sword: The treatment of royal injuries in battle. (2) Madness: The mental health of royalty including George III, Victoria and Henry VI. (3) Decadence: Health issues resulting from decadent royal life-styles. (4) Tainted blood: Genetic diseases afflicting royalty, notably the descendants of Queen Victoria. (5) Royal birth: Problems afflicting royal childbirth.
29 Aug-19 Sep 2009 / BBC2 (first shown on BBC4).
Series about the history of Western sacred music from the earliest development of polyphony to Palestrina, Tallis, Byrd and J. S. Bach.
Presented by Simon Russell Beale.
Sacred Music (Open University).
SAVING BRITAIN'S PAST
24 Aug-5 Oct 2009 (7 x 30 mins) / BBC2.
Series about the conservation movement which sprung up in Britain after WW2 to protect our architectural heritage:
(1) The City: The city of Bath is renowned for its attractive Georgian architecture, but much of it was deemed to be not worth saving by short-sighted town planners in the 1960s and '70s. (2) Streets in the Sky: The story of Park Hill Flats in Sheffield - to many a blot on the landscape, but to some a part of Britain's architectural heritage. (3) The Country House. (4) The Market: The struggle to preserve London's Covent garden. (5) The Pit. (6) The Crofters. (7) The Street.
Presented by Tom Dyckoff.
Saving The Past (Open University)
1968 - 2003 / BBC2 ("BBC Schools").
Award winning drama anthology series aimed at teenagers, its high production values and big-name playwrights also winning an appreciative adult audience. Its aim was to get young people thinking about social issues.
1989 - 1993 / BBC1.
Major drama anthology series following on from "Screen Two" (see below) and "Play For Today". Attracting big-name playwrights and actors, six series were made in all - including productions such as "A Question of Attribution", "Ghostwatch", "Wide Eyed and Legless", "A Foreign Field" etc.
Screen One (WIKI).
1985 - 1998 / BBC2.
Important drama anthology series following on from "Play For Today". 140 productions were made in total - a few with supernatural themes. Included productions such as "Hard Travelling" (1986), "The Lorelei" (1990), "Truly, Madly Deeply" (1992), "Enchanted April" (1992), "The Blue Boy" (1994).
SEA OF FAITH
1984 (6 eps) / BBC2.
Documentary series looking at how Christianity evolved in response to philosophical developments in society. The ideas of thinkers such as Renée Descartes, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx etc. are covered. Presented by Don Cupitt.
THE SECRET HISTORY OF OUR STREETS
6 June - 11 July 2012 / BBC4.
Engaging series about well-known streets in London and their social history since Victorian times, when Charles Booth made a detailed survey of social conditions in the capital: (1) Deptford High Street, Deptford (2) Camberwell Grove, Camberwell (3) Caledonian Road, Islington (4) Portland Road, Notting Hill (5) Reverdy Road, Bermondsey (6).
SECRETS OF THE FORBIDDEN CITY
10 May 2008 / BBC2.
Writer & Director: Mark Lewis.
Drama documentary about the ascent to power of the 14th century, Chinese Emperor Yongle, and the building of the world-famous "Forbidden City" in Beijing.
Starring: Anthony Brandon Wong.
SEE HEAR - HISTORY OF BRITISH SIGN LANGUAGE
2005 (2 parts)/ BBC2).
"See Hear" is a long running magazine program aimed at the deaf community. In 2005 it featured an outstanding 2 part drama-documentary about the history of British Sign language (BSL). It offers a fascinating insight (especially for hearing people!) into the lives of deaf people over the centuries and the eventual emergence of "signing" over "oralism" after a long struggle.
31 Jan – 14 Mar 2010 (x7)/ BBC1.
Heritage documentary about the history of British art and architecture.
Presented by David Dimbleby.
See also A picture of Britain (BBC1).
SEVEN JOURNEYS IN THE AMERICAN WEST
BBC2 (History - "BBC learning Zone")
Documentary made for secondary schools about the pioneers who journeyed into and settled the "Wild West".
SEVEN WONDERS OF THE INDUSTRIAL WORLD
4 Sep - 16 Oct 2003 / BBC2
Excellent docudrama series which explores the feats of engineering that went into building some of the landmark structures of the "Industrial era". Featuring the Brooklyn Bridge, Hoover Dam, the Great Eastern (the first iron steam powered ship designed by IK Brunel), The Bell Rock Lighthouse (in Scotland), London's sewage system, the Panama Canal and The Great Western Railroad in America. Computer graphics and live action are used to superb effect throughout.
2 - 3 January 2002 (2 x 125 mins)
/ Channel 4.
Writer & Director: Charles Sturridge / Producer: Selwyn Roberts.
Excellent drama about the expedition to reach the South Pole led by British explorer Ernest Shackleton. Unable to achieve their goal, the men battle to survive against the most adverse weather conditions imaginable and dire food shortages. Kenneth Branagh gives a fantastic performance in a beautifully-crafted production.
With: Kenneth Branagh, Lorcan Cranitch, Kevin Mcnally etc.
C4 website - Shackleton.
8 - 22 Nov 1998 (3 pts) / Channel
Director & Series Producer: Julia Harrington.
A look at the history of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, from the American Civil war, through World Wars 1 and 2, to recent military conflicts such as the Falklands and Gulf wars. Accompanying book by Wendy Dryden.
SHOCK AND AWE: THE STORY OF ELECTRICITY
6 - 20 Oct 2011 (3 x 60 mins) / BBC4.
No-nonsense documentary charting the history of man's attempts to understand and master the forces of electricity.
Presented by Professor Jim Al-Khalili.
SINGAPORE 1942: END OF EMPIRE
27 May & 3 June 2012 (2 x 60 mins) / BBC2.
Absorbing drama-doc telling the story of the worst military defeat in Britain's history - the fall of Singapore to the Japanese during World War II.
THE SKY AT NIGHT
Apr 1957 - Present / BBC1.
Weekly magazine program on astronomy which has become the UK's longest running TV series. Now, a national institution, "The Sky at Night" has featured interviews with the world's leading atronomers and reported on the vanguard of space exploration for the past 50 years.
Presented by Sir Patrick Moore.
The Sky at Night (BBC).
THE SLAVERY BUSINESS
3 - 17 Aug 2005 (3 x 60 min
eps) / BBC2.
Superior 3-part drama-documentary which explores how Slavery operated in the Carribean under British rule. The struggle between Plantation owners and abolitionists, and attempts by investigators to uncover systematic fraud and corruption in the Sugar Industry are highlighted. The last episode focuses on the Slave revolts and the work of reformers like Wilberforce who eventually succeeded in abolishing slavery in British territory once and for all.
BBC History - The Abolition of Slavery.
14 Nov 2005 (120 mins) / Channel
Director / Producer: Carl Hindmarch
Powerful and elegiac drama-documentary about one of the most horrific events in British military history. During World War I, thousands of young British soldiers were sent "over the top" to their deaths in a disastrous offensive against the Germans. The program consists of dramatic reconstructions, documentary footage, archive film, graphics and CGI over-views of the battlefield.
THE SOMME - FROM DEFEAT TO VICTORY
2 July 2006 (60 mins) / BBC1.
Writer & Director: Detlef Siebert / Producer: Matthew Barrett.
Very watchable drama-documentary commemorating the 90th anniversary of one of history's bloodiest battles.
World War 1 (BBC).
The Somme: From Defeat to Victory (Open University).
SPACE FILES - THE UNIVERSE UNVEILED
2005 (180 mins) / BBC2 ("BBC
Educational documentary which uses CGI and narration to give viewers a guided tour of the Solar System from Mercury to Pluto (including their moons) and beyond. Suitable for older children and adults.
SPACE ODYSSEY: Voyage to the Planets
9 -16 Nov 2004 (2 eps) /
Epic docudrama about an interplanetary spacecraft, Pegasus, and her crew of six who are missioned to voyage through the Solar System, exploring the planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto on the way. One of the best TV dramas of the year - and the computer graphics are stunning.
Space Odyssey - BBC website.
14 Sep - 5 Oct 2005 (4 x 60 min
eps) / BBC2
Writer / Director: Chris Spencer / Producer: Debbie Cadbury.
Excellent Drama-documentary series telling the story of the rivalry between the American and Soviet Governments in the race to conquer space. It focuses on four key events: (1) The pioneering work of Werner Von Braun, who designed the German wartime V2 rocket, and worked for the Americans after the war; (2) The launch of the first unmanned satellite, the Russian Sputnik, into space; (3) The launch of the first man into space - the Russian Yuri Gagarin; (4) The American Apollo mission to put men on the moon in 1969.
Space Race (WIKI).
STEPHEN FRY AND THE GUTENBERG PRESS
25 Apr 2008 / BBC2
Director: Patrick McGrady.
Documentary about the work of Johann Gutenberg, who invented the first printing press. A team of experts reconstructs the original press and metal type, using them to print a copy of an original page from the first Gutenberg Bible.
Presented by Stephen Fry.
THE STORY OF INDIA
24 Aug - 28 Sep 2007 / BBC2.
Director: Jeremy Jeffs / Producer: Rebecca Dobbs.
Documentary series charting the history of India from Ancient times to the present day.
Written and Presented by Michael Wood.
THE STORY OF IRELAND
20 Feb - 17 Apr 2011 (5 pts) / BBC1.
Series Producer: Mike Connolly / Exec. Producer: Ailsa Orr.
Documentary series covering the history of Ireland from its earliest times to the present day. Episodes: 1. The Age of Invasions 2. The Age of Conquest 3. The Age of Revolution 4. The Age of Union 5. The Age of Nations.
Written and presented by Fergal Keane. The series has an accompanying book, "Story of Ireland: In Search of a New National Memory" by Neil Hegarty.
THE STORY OF SCIENCE
27 Sep - 1 Nov 2010 (6 pts) / BBC2.
Documentary exploring the history of Society and how it has been affected by the development of Science: (1) What Is Out There? (2) What is the World Made of? (3) How did we get here? (4) Can We Have Unlimited Power? (5) What Is the Secret of Life? (6) Who Are We?
Written and Presented by Michael Mosley.
The Story of Science (Memorable TV)
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE LAW
13 - 27 June 2012 (3 x 60 mins) / BBC4.
Excellent documentary series looking at legal history in England. Presented by Harry Potter.
1 Feb 1961 - 2001 / ITV (Anglia).
Innovative, award-winning nature documentary series that went on to make over 1000 programs and was broadcast on TV networks all over the world.
3-24 Nov 2011 (4 pts) / BBC4.
The story of the classical symphony focusing on the work of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Sibelius, Shostakovich, Ives and Copland. Episodes: 1. Genesis and genius 2. Beethoven and beyond 3. New Nations and New Worlds 4. Revolution and Rebirth.
19 Aug - 4 Nov 2005 (12 episodes) / BBC2
and evocative documentary series which sets a team of experts
the challenge of
running a Welsh farm exactly as it would have been
in the year 1620 (in the reign of James I). The farming techniques, implements, crops,
and breeds of animals are those of the period as are
the clothes and cuisine. See also: Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm
Review (TV heaven).
27 Jan & 3 Feb 2007 (2 x 60
mins) / BBC2.
Director: Matthew Whiteman / Producer: Suzy Klein.
Drama documentary about the great 19th century Russian composer.
With: Ed Stoppard, William Mannering, Alice Glover.
1066: BATTLE FOR MIDDLE EARTH
2009 (x 2 eps) / Channel 4.
Suprisingly good drama-doc about events leading up to and including the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The dramatic narrative follows events from the perspective of the ordinary Anglo-Saxon citizen and foot-soldier.
1066 (Channel 4).
TEN THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT......
13 Mar - 3 Apr 2008 (4 x 60
mins) / BBC2 (First shown on BBC4)..
Series of reasonably informative documentaries giving an entertaining introduction to various natural phenomena.
THAMES SHIPWRECKS; A RACE AGAINST TIME
Sep - Oct 2008 (4 parts) / BBC2.
Clever documentary series about the history behind shipwrecks currently lying on the bed of the River Thames. An intriguing glimpse into aspects of London's maritime, commercial and industrial past.
THIS GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND: THE STORY OF BRITISH LANDSCAPE PAINTING
17 May 2011 / BBC4.
Director: Spike Geilinger / Producer: Spike Geilinger / Exec. Producer: Greg Sanderson.
400 years of art history from court painting during the reign of Charles I (17th c.) to the contemporary works of David Hockney. Narrated by Simon Callow.
Series 1: 4 Sep - 18 Dec 2003 (16 pts) /
Series 2: 2005 (8 pts) / BBC2.
Each week, a team of enthusiasts, with the guidance of military experts, re-enacts a famous battle from ancient history using computer simulation. The battles covered include Marathon, Cannae, Troy, Stamford bridge, Hastings etc.
Presented by Eddie Mair & Richard Hammond.
Time Commanders (Wikipedia).
9 Mar 2010 to date / BBC4.
Superb "rolling" documentary series which covers all aspects of Britain's social and cultural history - beautifully illustrated with vintage film of the period.
1995 - Date / Channel 4
Long running series in which experts carry out excavations all over the UK, revealing long-forgotten buildings and shedding light on aspects of local history. "Time Team" has done much to popularise archaeology and showcase the important cultural heritage of Britain.
Hosted by Tony Robinson.
Time Team Website
1981 - Date / BBC2
Long running history documentary series presenting new discoveries based on the latest research and archaeological excavations.
Timewatch (Open University).
TITANIC: BIRTH OF A LEGEND
29 Dec 2005 (100 mins)/ ITV1.
Writers: Neil McKay & William Lyons / Director & Producer: William Lyons.
Impressive docudrama about the building of the Titanic in the famous Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At the time the largest ship ever constructed, the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic, after hitting an iceberg.
With: Gordon Langford-Rowe, Charles Lawson. Narrated by Charles Dance.
TONY ROBINSON'S CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
1 - 22 June (4 x 55 mins) / Channel 4.
Entertaining and informative documentary series about legal history.
Presented by Tony Robinson.
TRAFALGAR BATTLE SURGEON
29 Aug 2005 / Channel 4.
Gritty, realistic drama-doc about the naval Battle of Trafalgar (1805) as seen from below deck. The action centres on the ship's surgeon, William Beatty, who battles to save the lives of casualties, including Admiral Nelson himself, in the most primitive and unhygienic of conditions - and without the benefit of modern drugs or anaesthesia.
Starring Francis Magee and Roger Daltry.
THE TRAIN NOW DEPARTING
15 Nov - 20 Dec 1988 (6 x 29 mins) / BBC2.
Documentary series looking at preserved railways in Britain, 20 years after the end of steam trains. Episodes: (1) The Long Drag, (2) The West Highlander, (3) Lines Of Industry, (4) The Holiday Line, (5) Steam On The Isle Of Man, (6)The Survivors. Narrated by Anthony Smith.
Note: Some episodes available to view online at BBC Archive.
THE TRIALS OF LIFE
4 Oct - 20 Dec 1990 (12 x 50 mins) /
Exec. Producer: Peter Jones.
Epic Wildlife series looking at the various features of animal behaviour. The third in a trilogy of series following "Life on earth" and "The Living Planet".
Presented by David Attenborough.
The Trials of Life (Wiki).
Comment: The Series is available on DVD as part of a BBC collection.
TROPIC OF CANCER
14 Mar - 18 Apr 2010 / BBC2.
Travel documentary with a difference - looking at aspects of the political and social life of countries lying on the Tropic of Cancer.
Presented by Simon Reeve.
TURNING POINTS - ALCOHOL
1998 / BBC2 ("BBC Schools").
Director: Jonathan Hacker / Series Producer: Sarah Fielden.
A back to back series of three 20 minute dramas illustrating the impact that alcohol abuse can have on teenagers and their families.
12 BOOKS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
April 2006 (4 x 55mins) / ITV1.
Very interesting documentary series about books which had a radical impact on society. The books were:
Episode 1: Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica (1687), Marie Stopes's Married Love (1918), the first Rule Book of the Football Association (1863).
Episode 2: Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species (1859), Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), William Wilberforce's Speech to the House of Commons (1789).
Episode 3: Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776), The King James Bible (1611), Magna Carta (1215).
Episode 4: Michael Faraday's Experimental Research in Electricity (1855), Patent Specification for Arkwright's Spinning Machine (1769), The Works of William Shakespeare - first folio (1623).
Written and presented by Melvyn Bragg.