Higher channels

November 6, 1998

John Davies scans the weekly schedules for TV and radio programmes of academic relevance. (All times pm unless stated.) Pick of the week

Stand by for first world war information overload, as the BBC and Channel 4 mark the 80th anniversary of the Armistice with a glut of programmes. Programme-makers are understandably keen to record the few eye-witnesses of this conflict still alive; but there is a lot of familiar-looking black-and-white film - and familiarWilfred Owen poems - in prospect over the next few days. It is as if this war stands for all the worst aspects of the 20th century yet, for all its inhumanity, is distant enough to be somehow reassuring, compared with today's unsettling horrors in Sudan, East Timor, Kosovo or Rwanda. Of this week's new programmes, Shell Shock (Sunday 8.00 pm), the first of a three-part series, is perhaps the most useful. It tells the story of how men's psychological reaction to trench warfare gave rise to the term "shell shock" and to "a new understanding of temporary mental breakdown".

Also this week

SATURDAY November 7

Heritage (10.30 am BBC World Service, repeated Monday 9.30). Medieval medicine, and what excavations and contemporary documents can tell us.

The Underground War (7.00 C4). Looking at the maze of tunnels that intersected the first world war's trenches. Also on C4 tonight: Sound Like Sunlight (8.45) is about soldiers blinded in action, and The Real Kaiser Bill (9.00) is a biodoc based on the expertise of Sussex University's John Rohl.

In Parenthesis (8.00 R4). A treat from the archives: sections of David Jones's epic poem read by Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton and others.

Cold War (8.10 BBC2). "After Stalin", 1953-6: Poles, Germans, Hungarians rise up against Soviet rule.

SUNDAY November 8

1914-18: The Great War (7.00 am UK Horizons). Reshowing of seven-part BBC documentary.

Shot at Dawn (5.30 ITV). One-hour documentary about servicemen executed for "military offences" in the first world war.

Sunday Feature: Freedom Radio (5.45 R3). On past and present anarchists and their radical ideas.

Shell Shock. See above.

Earth Story: The Deep (8.00 BBC2). Part two is about continental drift, submarine volcanoes and other clues to the planet's early life.

Veterans: The Last Survivors of the Great War (10.00 BBC1). First of two programmes.

MONDAY November 9

Start the Week (9.00 am R4). With historian NiallFerguson, gender-language expert Deborah Tannen (also in Thursday's Nightwaves, 10.45 R3), and the Archbishop of York.

Armistice Diary (7.50 C4, and rest of week). C4's after-the-news slot follows the story of bandsmanErskine Williams from the Somme to the Armistice.

Postscript: Grave New World (9.05 R3). Elaine Showalter explains her controversial views onmass hysteria.

TUESDAY November 10

University Challenge (8.00 BBC2). Corpus Christi, Cambridge, v Oriel, Oxford.

QED: Call of the Deep (9.30 BBC1; 10.45 in N Ireland and Wales; Wed 9.30 in Scotland). Plymouth'sDiving Diseases Research Centre investigates how "free divers" stay alive under water.

Nightwaves (10.45 R3). Examining the relationship between Nietzsche and Wagner.

The Day the Guns Fell Silent (10.45 BBC1, also Wednesday 10.45; times vary outside England). Collection of stories from WW1, before and after Armistice day.

WEDNESDAY November 11

The Life of Birds (8.00 BBC1). Attenborough's focus this week is birds of prey.

Costing The Earth (9.00 R4). First of new eco-series looks at North Sea pollution.

THURSDAY November 12

Body Story (9.00 C4). Inside-the-body endoscopyfilming and "real-life" medical drama are combined in a new series. This week, a construction foreman has a heart attack.

Science at War (9.25 BBC2). New series about how science has changed the course of 20th-century war starts with poison gas inventor Fritz Haber.

Comments to John Davies at Davieses@aol.com

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