Television's Opening Night: How The Box Was Born

Confirmed for BBC Four on 2 November at 9pm to 10.30pm

Ep 1/1

Wednesday 2 November



In a unique experiment, Dallas Campbell (Bang Goes The Theory), Professor Danielle George (The Christmas Lectures) and Dr. Hugh Hunt (Dambusters: Building The Bouncing Bomb) join forces in an attempt to re-stage the very first official broadcast on British Television, exactly 80 years after it made history.

The very first official live broadcast on British Television came from Alexandra Palace on 2 November 1936 - but there are no surviving recordings. To find out just what went on, this 21st century team will attempt to piece back together and recreate every aspect of the show from scratch, from the variety acts to the cameras, using the original technology and filming techniques to capture the excitement of the day.

It’s not going to be easy. At the dawn of TV, two rival camera technologies competed live on air to take control of the fledgling industry. The system that went first on opening night was a seven-feet tall mechanical monster built by John Logie Baird’s company. It was called the 'Flying Spot' and at its heart was a huge steel disc spinning almost at the speed of sound - meaning mechanical engineer Hugh Hunt had better be careful as he attempts to resurrect it.

Meanwhile, Professor Danielle George will find out how the rival and highly experimental all-electronic camera system had problems of its own.

As they prepare for broadcast, the team will discover a story of cogs and gears, electron beams and dancing girls - and one mad night that, for better or worse, helped invent television as we know it.

Television's Opening Night: How The Box Was Born is being produced by Windfall Films. The film was commissioned by Diene Petterle and the Executive Producer for Windfall Films is David Dugan.

Pictured: Dallas Campbell and Professor Danielle George, building a DIY cathode ray tube out of a wine bottle