Great Continental Railway Journeys
Friday 13 November, 9.00pm
Michael Portillo heads for Greece, where he begins his latest travelogue in Athens’ port, Piraeus. From here, he heads north to Thessaloniki, captured by the Greeks from the Ottoman Empire in 1913. Along the way, among other highlights, the former politician sees the Acropolis and relives a Greek athletic victory at the first modern Olympics.
Raising the Bar: 100 Years of Black British Theatre and Screen
Friday 13 November, 9.00pm
The omnibus edition of Lenny Henry’s entertainment history series deals with such subjects as Othello and Horace Ové’s feature, Pressure, which told the story of a black teenager growing up in 1970s London. The second tranche of weekday episodes begins with a programme about black theatre groups in the 1970s and 1980s (Monday 16 November, 1.45pm).
Sunday 15 November, 4.30pm
Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock tells the story of poet Idris Davies. Born in 1905 in Rhymney, South Wales, Davies’s work drew on his experience as a miner, and of the economic hardship he saw at first hand in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Secret History of the British Garden
Sunday 15 November, 9.00pm
Over four episodes, Monty Don traces the evolution of the British garden through four centuries. He begins in the 17th century, represented by the plot at Levens Hall in Cumbria, which has changed remarkably little since it was first laid out. Expect topiary.
Monty Don (left) helping to move a tree. (BBC/Lion Television/Laura Rawlinson)
The Invention of France
Monday 16 November, 11.00am
The final episode in Misha Glenny’s three-part history of France picks up with a famous defeat for Napoleon. But the site of the battle isn’t Waterloo, but Sedan, where, in 1870, the Prussians defeated forces led by Napoleon III, nephew and heir to his more illustrious predecessor. The defeat paved the way for two world wars in the 20th century.
Pick of the Week…
Blood, Sex and Money: The Life and Work of Emile Zola
Monday 16 November, 4.00pm
Ahead of returning to thespian work as narrator in a series of dramatisations of Emile Zola’s novels, Glenda Jackson traces the life of the French novelist (1840-1902). Speaking with his descendents, Jackson discovers the Dreyfuss affair, when Zola accused the French military of orchestrating a cover-up, still casts a long shadow.
The Secret Life of Books: Swallows And Amazons
Monday 16 November, 8.00pm
John Sergeant takes to the water to explore the origins of Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s novel. Followed by The Quizeum (8.30pm), which this week finds Griff Rhys Jones and guests at London’s Imperial War Museum.
Timeshift: How Britain Won the Space Race – The Story of Bernard Lovell and Jodrell Bank
Monday 16 November, 9.00pm
How did a muddy field in Cheshire become a key site in the space race? As this documentary recounts, it’s largely down to one man, Bernard Lovell, whose drive and vision were behind the construction of Jodrell Bank, which put Britain at the forefront of the emerging science of radio astronomy.
Dominic Sandbrook: Let Us Entertain You
Wednesday 18 November, 9.00pm
Dominic Sandbrook argues that in key respects, post-second world war British culture has many preoccupations our predecessors in the Victorian era would recognise. Doctor Who, a time traveller who habitually wears a frock coat, is among those cited to bolster Sandbrook’s arguments.
Dominic Sandbrook outside Coronation Street’s Rovers Return set. (BBC/Oxford Scientific Films/James Allnutt)
The Last Kingdom
Thursday 19 November, 9.00pm
The terrific adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s novels continues with Uhtred out to rescue his wife, Mildrith, from suspected abduction. This draws him into battle with the Danes, and a confrontation with his most feared and fearsome rival.