Documentary

9:00pm Thursday, October 11 on C4

This dramatic new documentary follows an international team of scientists, experts and elite pilots as they deliberately crash land a 170-seat Boeing 727 passenger jet to provide a once-in-a-generation chance to study the mechanics of a plane crash in real time. The documentary recreates a common type of crash – a serious, but survivable, ‘forced landing’ – in order to study the crashworthiness of the aircraft’s airframe and cabin, examine the impact of crashes on the human body, and look for possible means of increasing passenger survivability. By crashing the plane, the programme also aims to answer key questions, such as whether sitting at the front or the rear of the aircraft, wearing a seat belt, and whether you use the brace position can make the difference between life and death.

7:00pm Saturday, October 6 on C4

There are very few movies we can say truly changed the world, but Jaws is one of them. Audiences stood in lines that wrapped entire city blocks to watch the world’s first summer blockbuster. But in the aftermath of the film’s release sharks were vilified and killed, leading to their near-disappearance from the east coast of America. Jaws: The Great White Myth reveals the stories of how lives and the natural world were significantly influenced by this infamous movie monster from 1975.

Monday, 8 October 2012, 10:35PM – 11:35PM

“If it was going to be your brother on the train or your husband, or a friend of yours, and they were brutally attacked like that and terrified. Would you think these guys were cool, that they were heroes? I don’t think you would.” – Nick Russell-Pavier, author

It was the crime of the century – and nearly 50 years on, this brand new 60-minute documentary for ITV1 examines the Great Train Robbery.

This documentary looks at the heist from the moment it was carried out at a desolate railway bridge, the way it captured the public imagination and elevated Ronnie Biggs and his partners in crime from small-time crooks to folklore figures.

Yet is the real truth dark and disturbing? Some glaring questions remain unanswered. Was it really a victimless crime? What is the significance of the men who got away? And with only £400,000 of the £2.6 million they stole recovered, what happened to the rest of the money?

The documentary features brand new interviews with key figures including Ronnie Biggs’s wife Charmian, relatives of the robbers, and the policeman who discovered the gang’s hideout at Leatherslade Farm, alongside rare ITV archive interviews with the robbers, as well as iconic archive film of the crime’s aftermath.

The Great Train Robbery also challenges romantic folklore surrounding the robbers and provides an insight into a landmark moment in time as Britain stood on the cusp of major social and political upheaval and the robbers’ generation – too young to have served in the war – were the first to be seduced by the promise of a better lifestyle as consumerism began to take hold of society.

Charmian Biggs, talking about her husband Ronnie, said it hadn’t been his intention to continue his previous criminal ways.

“I had extracted a promise from him when he married me that he wouldn’t go into anything criminal and I believed him. And I think he meant it at the time.”

Historian Dominic Sandbrook explains the context in which the robbery took place at the start of the 1960s.

“People have this kind of Robin Hood fantasy if you like, of the Great Train robbers as actually some sort of Ealing comedy enterprise. Which of course it isn’t. These people are career criminals, who are out to get what they can for themselves.”

Train robber Bruce Reynolds explains the way he felt at the time:

“The way I looked at it I was an outlaw, that society didn’t care for me and I didn’t particularly care for society.”

The documentary looks at how some media reports of the gang’s robbery of a Royal Mail money train in Buckinghamshire, led to a popular perception of them as folk heroes, despite the seriousness of the crime. By the time the world woke up to the news of the caper, the robbers had scarpered to Leatherslade Farm to lay low. Yet they abandoned the farm without covering their tracks. Local police officer John Woolley tells the documentary how he uncovered evidence of the robbery under a trapdoor.

“Even in the half light I could see that that cellar was absolutely choc-a-block with bulging sacks. And as the top flopped open I could see parcel wrappers, bank note wrappers, consignment notes, all bearing the names of the famous high-street banks.”

In London, times had changed for the robbers’ families. Marilyn Wisbey, daughter of Tommy, says: “I mean, one minute we would buy clothes from a catalogue and the next minute we’d be in a black taxi down to Knightsbridge and Harrods.”

But Charmian Biggs recounts the police raids and arrests that swiftly ensued.

She says: “A whole group of policemen, eight perhaps, arrived at the house. I answered the door. They barged in, in September after the robbery, about two o’clock in the afternoon. They asked for him, he was at work, I offered to ring him but was told I couldn’t use the phone. I was made to sit down and say nothing till Ron came home.”

At trial, all but one pleaded not guilty, and suggested that the evidence at Leatherslade Farm was planted. The identity of three men who took part in the raid but never stood trial has never been revealed by police or the robbers, says Nick Russell-Pavier, an author and expert on the Great Train Robbery.

“The guys who were prosecuted successfully claimed they were fitted up. So if they were fitted up why couldn’t the police fit up the three guys who got away. The answer is they weren’t fitted up.”

The robbers were given a total of 307 years in prison – up to 30 years each. Later, after Charlie Wilson escaped from Winson Green prison in Birmingham, Ronnie Biggs went over the wall at HMP Wandsworth and famously went on the run. But years later, most of the families had little to show for the robbery, says Nick Reynolds, son of train robber Bruce, who also went on the run before his arrest.

“The money went on just being on the run, its an expensive game laundering, false passports, keeping one step ahead of the law.”

Former ITN reporter Gerald Seymour explains the impact the crime had on the robbers, and their families.

“What a waste of some clever bright guys who at the fork in the road went left when maybe there was a right, and they paid so dearly for it. I can’t say that any of them would say it was worth it.”

Thursday, 11 October 2012, 10:35PM – 11:05PM

Corfu is buzzing! Five hundred thousand Brits fly there each summer and around 10,000 of us have even chosen to live there. It is the No.1 Greek holiday island for British holidaymakers, and we easily out-number every other nationality holidaying on the island. In fact, each summer more Brits set foot on Corfu than Greeks.

‘Corfu: A Tale Of Two Islands’ follows expats and holidaymakers from all walks of life; rich and poor, young and old, English and Greek, in a country that relies on tourism to survive, but is in the throes of economic meltdown. Corfu is a microcosm of Britain on a Mediterranean island. The programme tells the story of an island caught on the cusp of two cultures, whilst trying to cope with economic uncertainty.

8:00pm Sunday, September 16 on C4

The loss of Air France Flight 447 is one of the biggest aviation mysteries of all time. On May 31 2009, 228 passengers and crew boarded Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, but within hours they would all be dead. On board were passengers from 32 different countries, including five Britons as well as eight children. It has remained a mystery how the Airbus 330, one of the world’s most technologically advanced planes, just dropped out of the sky and plummeted into the ocean, killing all on board. Two years after the accident, following a painstaking search, the plane’s black box recorders were found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Miraculously, they had remained intact, preserving an extraordinary record of the conversations that took place between the pilots as a routine flight turned into disaster. For the first time on television, this remarkable documentary reveals what really happened on board the doomed airliner.

Monday, 10 September 2012, 10:35PM – 11:35PM

On the eve of the publication of a report into thousands of unpublished public papers into the Hillsborough disaster, ITV presents a landmark documentary containing previously unheard accounts of the events of that tragic day.

A total of 96 Liverpool fans died as a result of crushing at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 during an FA Cup match with Nottingham Forest. Even as they lay dying, the police officer in charge on the day blamed the fans themselves for the tragedy.

Despite an official enquiry into the Hillsborough disaster clearly identifying a series of police errors as the chief cause, many of the survivors and bereaved families feel they still fall under a cloud of suspicion while those responsible have never been fully held to account.

Now, with the imminent publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report into unpublished public papers about the disaster, we hear first-hand recollections from relatives, survivors, members of the emergency services and others involved in the game to piece together the tragic events of that day and the 23-year search for truth which has followed.

10:00pm Monday, September 10 on C4

This documentary reveals reveals what could be the last untold survival story from the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Survivor Pasquale Buzzelli rode a blizzard of falling debris from a 22nd-floor World Trade Center stairwell and lived, miraculously, to tell his story. For the first time on television Pasquale recalls in extraordinary detail the full story of September 11, 2001. The film also hears from a leading physicist who discusses the science behind Pasquale’s survival; how did he survive the collapse of the North Tower by effectively surfing down it?

11:15pm Wednesday 12 September on BBC ONE

Religion and science are frequently set up as polar opposites and incompatible ways of thinking. The Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks believes that this is nonsense and that science and religion can, and should, work together.

To mark Rosh Hashanah this programme puts the Chief Rabbi’s view to the test. He meets three non-believing scientists, each at the top of their field: neurologist Baroness Susan Greenfield, theoretical physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili and the person best known for leading the scientific attack on religion, Professor Richard Dawkins.

Will the Chief Rabbi succeed in convincing the well-known defender of atheism that science and religion need not be at war?

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9:00pm Monday 3 September on BBC FOUR

The Romans have a reputation for being brilliant engineers and soldiers, but what isn’t as well known is that they also gave us wonderful artistic treasures. In this new three-part series, Alastair Sooke argues that the old fashioned view that the Romans didn’t do art is nonsense.

He traces how the Romans during the Republic went from being art thieves and copycats to pioneering a new artistic style: warts ‘n’ all realism. Roman portraits reveal what the great names from history, men like Julius Caesar and Cicero, actually looked like. Modern day artists demonstrate the ingenious techniques used to create these true to life masterpieces in marble, bronze and paint.

We can step back into the Roman world thanks to their invention of the documentary-style marble relief and the eruption of the Vesuvius volcano, which in its destruction of Pompeii left a remarkable artistic legacy. Finally, Sooke shows how Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, used the power of art to help forge an empire.

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9:00pm Tuesday, August 28 on C4

In this ground-breaking film, historian Tom Holland explores how a new religion – Islam – emerged from the seedbed of the ancient world, and asks what we really know for certain about the rise of Islam. The result is an extraordinary detective story. Tom finds himself embroiled in what, for 40 years now, has been an underground but seismic debate: the issue of whether, as Muslims have always believed, Islam was born fully formed in all its fundamentals, or else evolved gradually, over many years – and in ways that Muslims today might not necessarily recognise.

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