BBC Factual announces new History and Science titles
January 30, 2024
The BBC has announced three new history and science titles – D-Day: The Unheard Tapes, Human and Artemis: A Horizon Special – which aim to take viewers on eye-opening journeys across time and space.
Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual, commented: “The BBC is committed to bringing the very best science and history stories to British viewers. Human is a stunning new take on the deep history of humanity, driven by new DNA evidence; Artemis: A Horizon Special provides privileged access to NASA’s new lunar mission; and D-Day: The Unheard Tapes gives new insight into the Normandy Landings by bringing to life the voices of witnesses who died many years ago. These are ambitious programmes which will take viewers on strange and eye-opening journeys – into the depths of the past and beyond the edge of the world.”
D-Day: The Unheard Tapes
Coinciding with the 80th anniversary of D-Day in 2024, D-Day: The Unheard Tapes (w/t) relives one of the most extraordinary days in the history of modern warfare through preserved audiotapes of those who experienced the invasion first-hand.
From the team at Wall to Wall behind BAFTA-nominated documentary AIDS: The Unheard Tapes, the three-part documentary is a co-production for BBC Two and iPlayer and The History Channel made in partnership with The Open University and Imperial War Museums.
Adopting an innovative new approach, the rich variety of first-person audio interviews will be given new life by a cast of young actors lip-syncing in documentary settings, combined with archival footage and immersive documentary-style recreation to tell the story of D-Day as it’s never been told before.
Simon Young, Head of History, BBC Factual Commissioning, said: “This is a genuinely fresh and innovative way in to one of the most iconic periods in modern history. D-Day didn’t happen in black and white, nor was it a one-sided tale of Allied genius. By bringing the events of that day to life with real words recast as interview testimony, this series brings us closer to those men and women who lived through it. The series will be part of a wider raft of BBC programming to commemorate the final months of World War Two, allowing modern viewers a new opportunity to connect with our past.”
D-Day: The Unheard Tapes (pictured) will air later in 2024.
Human is a major new 5×60 science series for BBC Two and iPlayer. Produced by BBC Studios Science Unit and co-produced with PBS, it tells the story of how humanity went from being just one of many hominin species to the dominant form of life on earth.
Presented by paleoanthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi, this series uses a combination of archaeology, travelogue and reconstruction to tell the story of how we became ‘us’: modern humans. Al-Shamahi will follow in the footsteps of our ancient ancestors – visiting internationally important archaeological sites to meet experts who can help her unlock the secrets of our deep historical past.
Al-Shamahi commented: “In the last few years there has been an ancient DNA revolution and multiple new species of human have been discovered. So this really is the perfect time to be making this series. I’m particularly excited to put the human back into human evolution. This is our story and it’s a remarkable one.”’
Human was commissioned for BBC Two and iPlayer by Bootle. It is being made by BBC Studios Science Unit where the Executive Producers are Andrew Cohen and Paul Overton and is being co-produced with PBS. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Tom Coveney, BBC Head of Science.
Artemis: A Horizon Special
This Horizon special has privileged behind-the-scenes access as NASA sends astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in over 50 years – among them, the first woman and person of colour to walk on the lunar surface. The Apollo missions were discontinued in 1972 for being too expensive and dangerous (some of the first astronauts reportedly believed they had a one in three chance of dying); since then, no human has travelled that far from Earth. Now, Artemis – the successor of Apollo – is NASA’s grand plan to establish a permanent lunar base before heading eventually for Mars. The next step is the Artemis II mission, which will fly four astronauts to the far side of the Moon and back, as a proof-of-concept before attempting a lunar landing.
However, the mission is already under pressure – the launch was recently delayed by ten months (to September 2025), underlining just how complex it is to send humans beyond the limits of our own atmosphere – and return them safely. Thousands of individual components have to work perfectly; every risk has to be minimised – whether from equipment failure, micrometeoroid collisions, or radiation exposure. And this time, NASA is collaborating with international and commercial partners, many of whom are newcomers in the human exploration of deep space. An observational documentary shot over 18 months, this film will follow the astronauts, engineers, and back-room crews in the build-up and execution of a historic mission.
Artemis: A Horizon Special 1×60 for BBC Two and iPlayer was commissioned by Bootle. It is also being produced by Wall to Wall where the executive producer is Jeremy Dear and Tim Lambert is the co-executive producer and director. It is a co-commission with NOVA and is produced in partnership with the Open University. The BBC commissioning editor is Tom Coveney, BBC Head of Science. NOVA Executive Producers are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of GBH. The film will air on NOVA on PBS in the US. Premiere date is TBA.