Pick of the week
After the previous programme’s mixture of fact and speculation about life on Mars, this week’s » Horizon : Destination Mars (Thursday 9.00 BBC2) turns to a possible manned mission to the planet. Clearly, a good few people are thinking seriously about the idea that “by 2020, humans could be standing on Mars”, so most of this Horizon is devoted to the risks in health and psychological well-being posed to astronauts on their likely six-month journey to Mars – from osteoporosis to exposure to solar rays and psychological depression. NASA astronauts and veterans of Russia’s Mir space station extrapolate from their experiences in space to suggest a far from enjoyable trip, nowhere near the imagined warp-drive-powered voyages of Star Trek . » Planet Mars
All times pm unless stated.
FRIDAY January 12
Seeking the Soul: The Music of Alfred Schnittke (from 6.00 R3). The start of a whole weekend – performance, recollection, discussion – devoted to the great Russian-German composer Schnittke, who died in 1998.
Lost Worlds: Looking for One Beginning (9.00 National Geographic). John Romer archaeology-history series continues.
Timewatch: The Empire State Story (9.00 BBC2; Monday 7.10 in Wales). Jonathan Gili, whose last Timewatch film was the excellent Tales of the Eiffel Tower in November 1999, explores the history of another iconic structure, with archive footage, publicity films and recollections from construction workers and others.
Some Liked It Hot (10.00 ITV). Second of two Steve Humphries documentaries on the history of the British holiday.
Shiver: Bodies on Ice (10.35 National Geographic). Cryogenics explored.
SATURDAY January 13
Reports of My Death (10.30 am R4). Anthony Howard on “premature” newspaper obituaries – the occasions when the still living have been able to read tributes on their supposed death.
» The Sky at Night (11.45 am BBC2). Chris Kitchin talks to Patrick Moore about distant clues to the origins of the earth (repeat from last Sunday night).
Private Passions (12 noon R3). Michael Levey, museum curator and fine art professor, chooses some music.
Seeking the Soul: The Music of Alfred Schnittke (from 1.00 R3). The Schnittke weekend continues with a live concert from the Barbican. Also today: an interval talk by David Fanning (1.50) and a late-night chamber concert (10.15).
The Lord Lieutenants (3.30 R4). Richard Stilgoe series continues with a visit to the Lord Lieutenant of Stirling and Falkirk.
The Ultimate Guide: Elephants (4.00 C4). State-of-the-art camerawork brought to bear on the elephant.
» Correspondent – City of Dreams (7.20 BBC2). A report from the Mexican city of Juarez, on a series of murders of young women. Is it a symptom of machismo’s reaction to female employment?
The Crime List (8.00 C4). Jon Snow assesses the effectiveness of Britain’s police forces. I sense the approach of another league table…
» The Greeks (8.10 BBC2). Second of this three-part US-made series, “The Golden Age”; on fifth-century Athens: its defeat of the Persians, its heroic leaders –Themistocles, Pericles – its buildings and its drama. (Philosophy has to wait until next week.) Most of this week’s talking heads are North American, but Reading’s Helen King and Edith Hall of Oxford are allowed to say a little, about the Delphic oracle and the Greek theatre audience respectively. (NB: the 6-12 Jan Radio Times edition lists a plethora of general Greek civilisation websites.)
2001 - The Making of a Myth (11.25 C4). About the film, its making, its meaning, etc. Arthur C. Clarke (inevitably) and Camille Paglia (not so) are among those offering their opinions and recollections.
SUNDAY January 14
Two Thousand Years (11.30 am ITV). The sixth century of Christianity (revised repeat).
» Music Matters (12.15 R3). With items on Northern Ireland’s Sonic Arts Research Centre, and Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra.
Seeking the Soul: The Music of Alfred Schnittke (from 2.00 R3). The Schittke weekend continues with three live concerts, at 2.00, 4.30 and 8.00, the last of which includes his Faust Cantata . Three interval features with Gerard McBurney include one (at 5.15) examining Schnittke’s music for a variety of Soviet films. (There’s a final concert on Monday at 7.30.)
Fairy-tale Economics (5.40 R4). Cinderella as a parable of consumerism, with economist Bridget Rosewell.
» Time Team (6.00 C4). A moated castle in Northamptonshire investigated by the pop archaeologists … (Meanwhile repeats of the fifth series – this is number eight – are going out on weekdays at 12 midnight on the Discovery Channel).
Performing Verdi (6.30 R3). Edward Downes discusses Aida .
Victoria’s Empire: Engines of Change (7.00 History Channel). Series about Queen Victoria’s reign starts with the rise of the industries that produced railways, ships and guns – and thus facilitated imperial dominance.
» Sunday Feature : Turner – The Eye of the Storm (7.15 R3). Marking the 150th anniversary of the painter’s death, Susan Marling’s feature concentrates on Turner’s landscapes. With Eric Shanes and James Hamilton.
YR. 1: A Snapshot of Britain in the 21st Century (8.00 C4). Launch of a photography competition aiming to find “the defining image of Britain at the start of the new millennium”.
Gulf War (8.00 Discovery Channel). Three hours of news footage and recollection, ten years after the events of January-February 1991.
Hitler’s Henchmen: Bormann (8.00 C5). Final documentary in the German-made series profiles “the most mysterious man in the Third Reich” (and convincingly shows that he really did die in 1945).
The World at War (8.10 BBC2). Re-runs of Jeremy Isaacs’s famous documentary series about the Second World War begin here. It was originally shown in 1973-4 in 26 parts on ITV; Isaacs’s more recent series, The Cold War , only ran to 24 episodes.
» Sunday Play : The Ghost of Federico Garcia Lorca (10.00 R3). Peter Straughan’s play about the Spanish poet combines tragedy, surrealism, humour and naturalism, and includes parts for Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel.
It’s A Nation Thing (10.45 R4). Patrick Hannan on controversies at Wales’s National Assembly and their likely impact on middle England.
Storyville: The Sweetest Sound (11.20 BBC2). American Alan Berliner goes in search of other people with his name. (He should try living in Cardiff with a name like John Davies).
MONDAY January 15
Composer of the Week (9.00 am R3 and rest of week) is Henri Dutilleux, still alive at 84.
Start the Week (9.00 am R4, repeated 9.30) includes historian Catherine Hall, novelist Justin Cartwright and Africa specialist Karl Maier.
From Crocodile Dung to Electrocution (3.45 R4 and for rest of week). The history of contraception.
Earth Story (7.10 BBC2, not Wales). Part 2 of re-run geology series from 1998 has Aubrey Manning following a research submarine as it investigates an underwater mountain range in the Atlantic.
Timewatch: The Empire State Story (7.10 BBC2, Wales only). Jonathan Gili, whose last Timewatch film was the excellent Tales of the Eiffel Tower in November 1999, explores the history of another iconic structure, with archive footage, publicity films and recollections from construction workers and others. (Shown in England, Scotland and N. Ireland on Saturday.)
Watchdog Healthcheck (7.30 BBC1). Including an item on hospitals as breeding-grounds for infection.
The Mystery of Pharoah’s Obelisk (8.00 C4). Repeat film about an attempt to raise an Egyptian obelisk (Channel 4/PBS co-production).
University Challenge (8.00 BBC2). Up this week: Newnham, Cambridge, vs. Bristol.
» Animal ER (8.30 C5). More stricken animals dealt with by the Royal Veterinary College.
The Sail (8.30 R4). Repeats about HMS Victory , its history and technology. Tonight, working the fore-topsail.
Cleopatra’s Palace (9.00 C4). Film following underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio as he and his team of divers explore the underwater ruins of Alexandria.
Nature (9.00 R4). The power and importance of wind (dispersing seeds, moving insects around, spreading fungus spores, etc). With entomologist Martin Warren, Bruce Fitt of the Institite of Arable Crops Research and others.
Night Waves (9.30 R3). In the first of a nightly series on lesser-known Victorian cultural figures, Valentine Cunningham talks about Ernest Jones, Chartist leader and poet.
» The Planets – Brief Encounters (9.50 BBC2, also Thursday same time). “Rocket Men”. Dressed-up extracts from the 1999 BBC2 series The Planets .
TUESDAY January 16
Adventures in Science (9.30 am R4). Ben Silburn on the travels of a red blood cell.
The Mayfair Set (9.50 am, also 12.50, 3.50, 6.50, 9.50 BBC Knowledge). Rerun of programme about James Goldsmith.
Music Afloat (1.30 R4). The Jews of Eastern Europe and the music they took with them as they fled to America.
Afternoon Play: The Natural Selection of Margret (2.15 R4). Set on the Galapagos, Patricia Hannah’s comedy is based on the true story of the German pioneers – apparently followers of Nietzsche – who settled on one of the islands in the 1930s.
America and the World (8.00 R4). Will the US continue to dominate world politics? Gavin Esler chairs a discussion.
Islam: Revolution and Reform (8.30 World Service, repeated Wed 2.30 am, 3.30). Part three: Muslims in the West.
» Meet The Ancestors (9.00 BBC2). “The Bishop’s Men” – six burials from the 13th century (perhaps) unearthed beside Hereford Cathedral. Bone expert Charlotte Roberts is among those assisting Julian Richards with his enquiries. (By coincidence perhaps, Wednesday’s Choral Evensong – 4.00 R3 – also comes from Hereford.)
Night Waves (9.30 R3). Caravaggio’s painting; Paul Celan’s poetry.
Boston Law (10.35 BBC1, 11.15 in Wales; also Wed 10.35, 11.05 in N. Ireland and Wales). An inside view of the US legal system, centring on Boston district attorney Ralph C. Martin II and public defender Lisa Medeiros.
WEDNESDAY January 17
Patient Progress (11.00 am R4). Second of two programmes on stress (repeat).
Thinking Allowed – The Larger Map (4.00 R4). Laurie Taylor is in Birmingham, where he meets novelist David Lodge, history Prof Carl Chinn and crime writer Judith Cutler.
The Countryside Debates (8.00 R4). Final programme revolves around the proposition that newcomers to the countryside are the ones saving its traditions, and promises among its participants “philosophers of the countryside”. Who might they be?
Twenty Minutes: Ivan Klima Stories (8.20 R3, also Thurs 8.10, Fri 8.20). Three stories by the Czech writer.
Signs of Life (9.00 R4). Drama-documentary series exploring the metaphors of illness ends with one about anorexia nervosa .
Sound of the City (9.00 R2). Charlie Gillett on the music of Memphis, Tennessee, with guest Sam Phillips.
» Confidence Lab (9.50 BBC2). Underconfident men and women “helped” (if it’s any help to have the camera record your shortcomings) by psychiatrist Sandra Scott and psychologist Ros Taylor.
» All the Rage (11.05 BBC1). Second of three programmes on stress and anger, in which Redford Williams (of Duke University) suggests that chronic anger can be bad for our health.
THURSDAY January 18
Moral Notes (11.30 am R4). Victorian popular songs and their values: Simon Brett continues his series with a selection of anti-drink songs.
Word of Mouth (4.00 R4). Michael Rosen examines the jargon of student life.
The Material World (4.30 R4). Research shaping the next generation of cars, with Ken Kendall and Gordon Smith.
Gold Domes, Black Earth (8.00 R4). People and power: Tim Whewell visits Novgorod, a city that can boast a democratic past. Its present is more oligarchic, however.
Analysis (8.30 R4). Felipe Fernandez-Armesto on the meaning of health scares – are they distracting us in the West from identifying the real reasons for our comparative good health?
Costing the Earth (9.00 R4). Depleted uranium weapons and their dangers.
» Horizon : Destination Mars (9.00 BBC2). See Pick of the week at top of page. Followed by » Planets – Brief Encounters (9.50 BBC2) “Moon Race”. Fragments from the big bang that was 1999’s Planets series.
» The West Wing (10.00 C4). Pilot episode of US series that offers an interesting if somewhat idealised view of US presidential politics. Last month in New York magazine, Michael Wolff described the series as “on its way to being the most important political document of the age”, which is perhaps exaggerating a bit – still, his thoughtful piece is worth reading » 'Our Remote Control President' .
Disinfo Nation (1.40 am C4). Including an interview with two “apocalyptic religious painters” - Norbert Kox and Frank Bruno - in Douglas, Arizona and the thoughts 93-year-old philosopher Brother Theodore (no, I don’t know who he is, but it might just be worth setting the video to find out.