Reaction Weekend

The Channel 5 documentary that will teach you more than a history lesson

BY Iain Dale | tweet IainDale   /  26 September 2020

Brunel: The Man Who Built Britain, Channel 5A few weeks ago I wrote about the unpredictable quality of Channel 5’s multifarious and omnipresent royal documentaries. Some are complete tat, others combine original research with dramatic interpretation.

This month they have treated us to three documentaries on great historic figures who we have all heard of, but few are experts on. Last week it was Nelson, next week it is Lawrence of Arabia, but this week we were treated to a superb film about the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was two hours of fact, interpretation and drama. Yes, two hours! It is a real tribute to the schedulers at Channel 5 that they allow programmes like this to be shown over two hours rather than 30 minutes, 45 minutes or an hour. There were advert breaks, of course, but let’s remember, without adverts, there would be no money to make programmes like this. And we still had more than an hour and forty minutes of fascinating and well-paced documentary.

The programme combined a voiceover soundtrack with talking head experts, each of whom really knew their subject. Sometimes in programmes like this you listen to a gob on a stick, who is clearly reciting a script, and think to yourself: “This muppet knows little more than I do.” Thankfully, not here.


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