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Peter O'Toole Appreciation, Genetics and Education, Japan at Christmas, Dragons

To coincide with the opening of the second part of film director Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, Matthew Sweet explores 'slaying the dragon', from Beowulf to Smaug.

Tonight with Matthew Sweet, Night Waves remembers Peter O'Toole the actor - with Roger Michell who directed him in his last great film role and film producer Kevin Loader, Annabel Leventon who shared a stage with him in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, and theatre critic Michael Billington.

Also tonight, the behavioural geneticist Robert Plomin whose latest findings suggest that genetic difference in the UK accounts for over half the variation between pupils' GCSE results. He explains why he thinks his findings have policy implications and also discusses why making links between genes, psychology and cognition became a taboo subject, and why it's taking off again now.

Then it's to Japan for Christmas in the company of Radio 3 New Generation thinker Christopher Harding. He's our guide to Christmas's place on Japan's commercial carousel, complete with much ado about cake and Santa-san.

Finally, as the second of Peter Jackson's Hobbit films, The Desolation of Smaug, hits big screens all over the country, we celebrate the Dragon of the North in myth and literature. Unlike its Chinese counterpart, western dragons signal trouble from their origins at the bottom of the Norseman's world to their place atop piles of treasure in Old English Beowulf and J R R Tolkien. Norse and Anglo-Saxon expert and New Generation Thinker Eleanor Barraclough and John Lennard, literature and fantasy scholar, join forces to guide Matthew through a maze of dragons, drakes, worms and were-dragons to discover what is old about the monster and what has been added by modernity and especially modern warfare.

Producer: Jacqueline Smith.

Available now

45 minutes


  • Peter O'Toole

    Matthew Sweet and guests pay tribute to the actor Peter O'Toole

    Duration: 13:48

  • Genetics and Education

    Robert Plomin on the importance of genetic inheritance for academic achievement

    Duration: 11:48

  • Japanese Christmas

    Christopher Harding leads a tour of a Japanese Christmas

    Duration: 05:16

  • Here be Dragons

    Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough and John Lennard on dragons in myth and literature.

    Duration: 13:43

G is for Genes

G is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement, by Kathryn Asbury and Robert Plomin, is published by Wiley-Blackwell.

Christmas in the Japanese Countryside

Christopher Harding's tour of Christmas in the Japanese countryside.

Peter O'Toole

Peter O'Toole

Tolkien and The Hobbit

Tolkien and The Hobbit
Tolkien's Triumph: The Strange History of The Lord of the Rings, by John Lennard, is available in paperback and as an ebook.

The second film in The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, is out now in UK cinemas, certificate 12A.

Image ©2013 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved. 


Role Contributor
Presenter Matthew Sweet
Interviewed Guest Roger Michell
Interviewed Guest Kevin Loader
Interviewed Guest Annabel Leventon
Interviewed Guest Michael Billington
Interviewed Guest Robert Plomin
Interviewed Guest Christopher Harding
Interviewed Guest Eleanor Barraclough
Interviewed Guest John Lennard
Producer Jacqueline Smith


Free Thinking

Free Thinking

Radio 3’s new home for arts and ideas.