In celebration of the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the BBC is set to transport viewers through time and space with three gripping history and science titles, promising riveting narratives and exclusive insights.
Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual, says: “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 – Reliving History Through Untold Voices
Coinciding with the landmark 80th anniversary of D-Day, the three-part series, “D-Day: The Unheard Tapes,” takes audiences on an immersive journey back to one of the most pivotal moments in modern warfare. Scheduled to air in 2024 on BBC Two and iPlayer, the documentary showcases extraordinary preserved audiotapes, offering a unique perspective on the Normandy landings.
Produced by Wall to Wall, known for the BAFTA-nominated “AIDS: The Unheard Tapes,” the series is a collaboration with The Open University and Imperial War Museums. Drawing on a treasure trove of original interviews from British, American, and German soldiers, as well as French witnesses, the documentary combines innovative lip-syncing by actors with archival footage and recreations, bringing the voices of those who lived through D-Day to life.
Simon Young, Head of History, BBC Factual Commissioning, says: “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.”
Morgana Pugh, Executive Producer, Wall to Wall, says: “Many months of dedicated research have enabled us to discover a series of powerful interviews recorded with those who fought on D-Day, sourced from around the world. In previously unheard and deeply personal stories, the real voices of those who took part in the Normandy landings will lead us through their own unique experiences; from mission reveal to the landings and beyond. Actors lip syncing veterans’ real voices will bring us closer to our contributors, as they tell the story of their D-Day in their own words, in all its raw and revealing detail.”
David Fenton, Assistant Director, Imperial War Museums, says: “Imperial War Museums are thrilled to be working with Wall to Wall on this exciting project. We are the custodians of a vast collection of recorded interviews and testimony so it is fantastic to be able to bring some of these fascinating stories to life in such a personal and innovative way.”
Dr Frances Houghton, Lecturer in History at The Open University and Academic Consultant on the series, says: “D-Day: The Unheard Tapes brings the experiences, feelings, and memories of ordinary people who were involved in, or impacted by, the Allied invasion to life in new and evocative ways. It draws extensively on oral testimonies that were recorded with military veterans and local civilians, granting the viewer an unusually intimate insight into what D-Day meant to those who survived. Overall, this series poignantly highlights the historical value of capturing veterans’ voices so that future generations might better understand what war is like ‘at the sharp end’. In so doing, it invites us all to reflect on how we remember and tell stories of conflict.”
Human: Unveiling the 250,000-Year Journey of Our Species
Presented by paleoanthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi, “Human” is a five-part science series narrating the 250,000-year journey of Homo sapiens from one of many hominin species to the dominant life form on Earth. Using breakthroughs in DNA technology and fossil evidence, the series, co-produced with PBS, unfolds the dramatic narrative of human evolution.
With a mix of archaeology, travelogue, and reconstruction, Al-Shamahi will delve into internationally significant archaeological sites to uncover the secrets of our ancient ancestors. The series, commissioned by Jack Bootle, promises to reveal the extraordinary twists and turns of our species’ story and redefine what it means to be human.
Presenter Ella Al-Shamahi says: “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.”
Tom Coveney, BBC Head of Science, says: “Amazing new discoveries from dig sites and labs around the world are finally making it possible to tell the astonishing story of Homo sapiens. This series will reveal the dramatic twists and turns our species’ story, the secrets behind our success, and ultimately what makes us human.”
Andrew Cohen, Head of BBC Studios Science Unit, says: ‘Human will build on the dramatic story telling techniques of Universe and Planets to reveal the extraordinary journey we have taken over the last 300,000 years. From being just one of a number of human species on Earth, to a species that has grown to dominate the planet like no other, the series will reveal the very latest research into our distant ancestors and we hope provide a new perspective on what it means to be Human.’
Artemis: A Horizon Special – NASA’s Lunar Odyssey
“Artemis: A Horizon Special” grants privileged behind-the-scenes access to NASA’s ambitious mission to return astronauts to the Moon after over 50 years. With a focus on the Artemis II mission, the documentary follows astronauts, engineers, and back-room crews during the complex preparations for a lunar landing.
Despite facing delays and challenges, including collaborations with international and commercial partners, NASA aims to establish a permanent lunar base before venturing to Mars. The documentary, produced by Wall to Wall and commissioned by Jack Bootle, provides an observational perspective over 18 months, capturing the intricacies and risks involved in human exploration beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
In summary, these ambitious BBC programmes, ranging from the untold tales of D-Day to the deep exploration of human evolution and NASA’s lunar odyssey, promise British viewers captivating narratives and fresh insights into the realms of history and science. As Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual, affirms, these programmes will take audiences on “strange and eye-opening journeys – into the depths of the past and beyond the edge of the world.”