Higher Channels

January 15, 1999

John Davies casts an academically inclined eye over the week's broadcasting. (All times pm unless stated.).

Pick of the week

Revisiting recent history through the eye-witness accounts of key participants is one of TV's strengths, as Channel 4 shows this week with two good examples of the genre. Station X, a four-part series on the wartime codebreakers of Bletchley Park, where the German Enigma machine's supposedly undecipherable messages were deciphered, begins on Tuesday (9.00). And on Sunday, Hostage (9.00) reaches part two (of three), covering the period from November 1985, when Oliver North first met an Iranian arms dealer in London, to January 1987 and Terry Waite's transformation from intermediary into hostage.

FRIDAY January 15

Visions: The Music of Olivier Messiaen (7.30 R3). First in a weekend of concerts (eight in all) celebrating the great French composer's music.

SATURDAY January 16

Animal Minds (6.00 BBC2). Are animals intelligent? Do they have emotions?

First of three documentaries examines the evidence and the moral implications.

The Real General Pinochet (8.00 C4). Tyrant or saviour of Chile? A one-hour documentary on the ageing ex-dictator.

SUNDAY January 17

Victoriana (5.40 R4). Asa Briggs on Victorian values.

Viewing the Century: Seamus Heaney (5.45 R3). In a special radio lecture, the Irish poet challenges Auden's view that "poetry makes nothing happen".

Monet's Garden (8.50 BBC2). Second of five short films has photographer Vivian Russell examining the artist's water-lily obsession, to tie in with the Monet exhibition that opens at the Royal Academy in London on January 23. Meanwhile, on Radio 3 Postscript: Mini-Monet (Monday-Friday evenings, times vary) takes the views of a variety of experts, from art historians to gardeners.

Hoping for a Miracle (8.00 C4). Reporting on the inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence case.

Hostage (9.00 C4). See above.

Provos - IRA and Sinn Fein (12 midnight UK Horizons). Rerun of Peter Taylor's insightful series reaches the era of the IRA's prison protests.

Next month Taylor will be back on BBC2 with Loyalists, a similar look at the other side of the sectarian divide.

MONDAY January 18

Iris (9.45am R4 and all week). John Bayley's memoir of his wife, Iris Murdoch, read by Oliver Ford Davies.

TUESDAY January 19

University Challenge (8.00 BBC2). Aberdeen vs Bangor.

The Flu Race (9.00 R4). Science versus the virus and its variants: the latest from the battlefront.

Station X (9.00 C4). See above.

Nightwaves (10.45 R3). Special programme marking the centenary of Jorge Luis Borges's birth, with Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and others.

WEDNESDAY January 20

Frontiers (9.00 R4). The latest research on the strange phenomenon of "blindsight" and what it means for our understanding of the human brain.

THURSDAY January 21

Law in Action (4.30 R4) Marcel Berlins asks what the "rules of war" mean nowadays.

Meet the Ancestors (9.0 BBC2). Investigates the remains of a stone-age burial site in Dorset.

Dispatches (9.30 C4) is in Kosovo following Finnish forensic scientists investigating last year's massacre.

E-mail: Davieses@aol.com.

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