Productions – Science


Journey to the Centre of the Earth
2 part special – Discovery Channels International and Channel 4

Since we were children we’ve wanted to know what’s at the centre of the earth and if we dug a hole, could we go there and what would it be like? In the 19th Century, French author Jules Verne had the same thoughts and he wrote, possibly the first science-fiction book ever, ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. Little was known then, about the science of our planet.

Surely, today, we could dig a tunnel the 4,000 miles to the centre of the earth. It would be a massive engineering project, but what problems would there be on the way? It’s more than 21 million feet to the centre of the earth and a tunnel could be used to find valuable minerals, we could build everlasting power stations there that would require no fuel and would be emission free and we could build a global transport system. It would take about 45 minutes to travel through the earth by a tunnel powered only by gravity.

The programme also explores the link between volcanoes and earthquakes and we experience an earthquake as it happens 10 miles down. We explore magnetism and how the Earth generates its magnetic shield and after “sailing” through the outer core, we cut our way to the very centre of the Earth.

In the Channel 4 version, explorer Monty Halls considers what scientists have learned about the Earth’s core since Jules Verne’s time. He descends into some of the world’s deepest caves and mines to give a flavour of conditions at the core.

Winner of the ‘Best Earth-Science Programme’ award at the Jackson Hole Film Festival

My name is Leah and I am a PhD Human Geography student at Swansea University. I saw ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ as a Geography undergraduate and thoroughly enjoyed it – the programme caused much excitement in our house of Geography students!

Written, produced and directed by Nigel Ashcroft

Galileo’s Battle for the Heavens (USA) – Galileo’s Daughter (UK)
Nova / PBS and Channel 4

In this two-hour special, we celebrate the story of the father of modern science and his struggle to get Church authorities to accept the truth of his astonishing discoveries. The program is based on Dava Sobel’s bestselling book, Galileo’s Daughter, which reveals a new side to the famously stubborn scientist—that his closest confidante was his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun.

Simon Callow plays Galileo in dramatic re-enactments of key moments from his life: his pioneering telescopic observations of the Moon and planets, his revolutionary experiments with falling objects, and his fateful trial before the Inquisition for heresy.

Based on Dava Sobel’s best-selling book

Winner of an Emmy for best longform documentary

“Galileo is sumptuously produced, beautifully filmed, lucid and colorful in its presentation of Galileo’s ideas, and always aware of the man behind them – this special creates a charming portrait.” The New York Times

Staring Simon Callow, narrated by Liev Schreiber
Directed by Peter Jones, written and produced by David Axelrod

Dirty Weekend
6 part series for ITV1

Dirty Weekend lifts the lid on all things 4-wheel drive and in a world of massively escalating 4 x 4 sales, finds people who actually want to get their wheels dirty. From professional drivers who need 4 wheel drive for their livelihoods to off-road motorsport, the series exposes all from the safety of your armchair.

Producer: Nigel Ashcroft

Hunting the Edge of Space – The Search for Infinity
2 part special – Nova / PBS

How telescopes have expanded our view of the universe:

From Galileo’s to today’s – telescopes have opened grand vistas onto our galaxy and beyond but now, huge new telescopes are poised to penetrate the enigmas of dark matter and dark energy.

Producers: Peter Jones and David Axelrod

The Ultimate Guide Series III
5 part series – Discovery Channels International


At any moment there are 60,000 people in the air—this incredible feat, now considered routine, began with what the Wright brothers achieved at Kitty Hawk in 1903. This program takes a comprehensive look at planes, from their history and how they are built and flown to the physics and aeronautical principles that keep them in the air. Excellent computer graphics, flight demonstrations of historical aircraft, and interviews highlight such topics as pilot training, air traffic control, aeronautical design, and aerial combat.

Producer: Nigel Ashcroft

Extreme Weather

Sun, wind, and rain are basic to life, but sometimes the weather is more than just that. Sometimes it’s stronger and more violent. The wind becomes a tornado, the rain a hurricane. The Earth’s atmosphere, for a moment, makes it uninhabitable. And there’s nothing we can do about extreme weather but try to predict it, prepare for it and hope that it never happens here.

The Ultimate Guide: Extreme Weather looks at the innermost workings of a storm system to reveal the visible and invisible forces that drive our weather. Using the latest satellite imagery and 3D graphic animation, trade-winds, tornadoes, lightning, monsoon, and hurricanes are examined in detail. From the aurora borealis to the bizarre down-pouring of fish and frogs, we learn that the earth’s atmosphere is a delicate and ever-changing environment. Finally we delve into the past to discover how earth’s volcanic origins helped create weather as we know it.

Producers: Nigel Ashcroft and Paul Simmons

The Search for Longitude
Nova / PBS and Horizon / BBC

It was one of humankind’s most epic quests – a technical problem so complex that it challenged the best minds of its time, a problem so important that the nation that solved it would rule the economy of the world. The problem was navigation by sea—how to know where you were when you sailed beyond the sight of land – establishing your longitude. While the gentry of the 18th Century looked to the stars for the answer, an English clockmaker, John Harrison, toiled for 4 decades to solve the problem. His elegant solution made him an unlikely hero and remains the basis for the most modern forms of navigation in the world today. The film is both a celebration of Harrison’s invention and an adventure story. An expedition on a period sailing vessel as it sails the open sea demonstrates the life and death importance of finding your longitude at sea.

Based on Dava Sobel’s best-selling book

Winner of an Emmy for best historical documentary

Starring Patrick Malahide

Producers: Peter Jones and David Axelrod

Einstein Revealed
2 part special – Nova / PBS and BBC

A two-part series that presents a penetrating profile of Albert Einstein, who contributed more than any other scientist to our modern vision of physical reality. Enlivened by dramatizations based closely on Einstein’s writings and the recollections of friends, our programs traces his extraordinary rise from a student who flunked his engineering exams to the world’s most renowned physicist—a transformation that took barely a decade.

What was the secret of Einstein’s scientific creativity? How did a lowly patent clerk without regular access to academic literature or other scientists come up with three revolutionary theories in the single ‘miracle’ year of 1905? How did Einstein, the pacifist, later evolve to become a crucial advocate of the Manhattan Project? And does Einstein’s popular image of a lovable eccentric match reality?

The film draws on the latest scholarly studies of Einstein’s private life to reveal a complex personality who was sometimes an unscrupulous flirt and at other times icy and remote from the women who supported his genius.

“His proof that time is relative, not an absolute measure, for example, involved an imaginary train, two poles and some right angle mirrors. These transferred to the screen with wonderful clarity, allowing you the rare luxury of performing an experiment as you sat in front of your television.” The Independent.

Starring Andrew Sachs

Producers: Peter Jones and Tom Levinson

The Ultimate Guide Series IV
5 part series – Discovery Channels International


Producer: Nigel Ashcroft and Steve Gooder


Producer: Nigel Ashcroft and Martin Cook

House Cats – the domestic cat is the most successful of all the species of cat and in many parts of the world our most popular companion. This inside look reveals why the domestic cat has retained many features of its wild ancestry. From its superb sprinting ability which allows it to reach 30 mph within seconds to its extraordinary sensory ability of touch (a cat’s whiskers allow it to detect anything that displaces them by a distance 2000 times less than the width of a human hair), the cat is an accomplished hunter.

Producer: Nigel Ashcroft and Karen Partridge

The Mystery of the Senses
5 part series – WNET, WGBH Nova / PBS and Channel 4

Why do some people crave chocolate? Why does music make some people cry at the movies? How did kissing begin? ‘Mystery of the Senses’ seeks answers to these and other questions as it explores the complexities of Smell, Taste, Touch, Hearing, and Vision. In this exploration, series host and naturalist Diane Ackerman travels around the world to investigate the science, history, and cultural values that influence our senses.

Vision allows us to see colour, motion, form, and shadow. Our brain interprets images so that we understand what we see. Diane Ackerman considers both the biology of vision and the mental processes and perceptions that govern vision. Diane seeks answers to how the brain makes sense of optical illusions, what the importance of eye placement is in predatory animals, how artists use light and colour, and why the sky is blue.

For centuries, many cultures have used scents and odours for a variety of purposes. From the earliest civilizations, humans have created and used scents to mask unpleasant odours and to enhance other, more appealing ones. To find out what makes humans so responsive to natural and synthesized fragrances, series host and naturalist Diane Ackerman investigates the role of incense in Oman, visits a perfume factory in New Jersey, traces a smell from outside the body to the part of the brain that stores memories and emotions, and examines how different animals use their sense of smell.

Producers: Peter Jones, Mike Gunton, Larry Klein, Tom Levenson, Carol Parrott Blue and Nigel Ashcroft

Based on the book “A Natural History of the Senses” by Diane Ackerman.

In Search of Our Ancestors
3 part special – Nova / PBS and Horizon / BBC

Anthropologist Donald Johanson probes the earliest ancestors of the human species – reaching back more than three million years to a strange ape who walked upright. Johanson takes viewers to the site in Ethiopia where he discovered the fossil remains of this missing link nicknamed “Lucy.”
In the second episode, he looks at how our human ancestors made their living which contrary to popular myth, finds scavenging was more lucrative than hunting -and may have contributed to the development of human intelligence.
In the final episode, Johanson investigates at what point our distant ancestors become anatomically like us, when they began to act like us and what it is that makes us human.

Producers: Peter Jones, Mike Gunton and Lenora Carey Johanson

Seeing in the Dark 
Clockdrive Productions in association with The National Science Foundation and PBS

‘Seeing in the Dark,’ based on Timothy Ferris’ celebrated book of the same title, reports on the revolution now sweeping amateur astronomy, in which backyard stargazers linked globally by the Internet are exploring deep space and making discoveries worthy of the professionals. It explores the current state of astronomy and cosmology and how everyone, as naturalists of the night, can look up into the night sky and claim a little piece of it as their own.

‘Seeing in the Dark’ was written and narrated by Timothy Ferris, features special visual effects by Don Davis, music by Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcher, sound by Kate Hopkins and Walter Murch, editing by Liza Day and outstanding photography by Francis Kenny ASC.

“I can honestly say I was mesmerised by its content (and the blues). I think that every Amateur Astronomer wannabe should spend an hour and watch this excellent, educational film. Well done guys. Let’s have another.”

Director: Nigel Ashcroft