Sunday 2nd Jan 2000 21:00 to 23:00 Hrs
Channel 4 in UK
MICHAEL GAMBON, JEREMY IRONS and IAN
HART lead an all-star cast in an epic adaptation of Dava Sobel's
book about adventure, intrigue and power on the high seas and in
the palaces and back streets of 18th century England.
Based on one of the decade's best-selling books, Longitude, this
epic adaptation also stars ANNA CHANCELLOR, BRIAN COX, FRANK FINLAY,
STEPHEN FRY, GEMMA JONES, TIM MCINNERNY, BILL NIGHY, ROGER LLOYD
PACK, PETER VAUGHAN, and SAMUEL WEST.
global travel by sea was coming into its own, hundreds of ships
and thousands of mariners were being lost at sea or wrecked on shore
because, once out of sight of land, they had no reliable way of
telling where they were on the world's seemingly infinite oceans.
In 1714, Parliament offered a £20,000 prize to anyone who
could solve the greatest scientific problem of the day: accurately
measuring longitude at sea.
While others looked for the answers in the stars, John Harrison
(Gambon), an 18th century, self-educated Yorkshire carpenter, who
had already built one of the most accurate clocks in the world,
believed he could make a clock that would still be able to keep
time on board a ship - something that everyone else deemed 'impossible.'
This would allow sailors to chart their exact position and avoid
further maritime tragedies.
Longitude is Harrison's story - of how he struggles to perfect his
idea, in defiance of the physical challenges of the sea, and the
more intellectual challenges of the Board of Longitude, set up by
Parliament to adjudicate the prize. Harrison, convinced his idea
would work, moves to London and sets about building his first sea-clock.
Nearly 200 years later, a young naval officer, Rupert Gould (Irons)
rediscovers Harrison's clocks in the basement of the Greenwich Observatory
and begins the mammoth task of restoring it to its majestic glory.
Cutting between these two periods, we see both men struggle against
the establishment and race to solve different problems. Harrison
builds a machine that he knows will work at sea, but proving that
on a voyage to Lisbon, and then convincing the Board of Longitude
does not prove easy. Meanwhile, Gould, whose obsession with restoring
Harrison's clocks has overtaken his life, is being divorced by his
wife - something which in the 1920's will cause a scandal and prove
costly in more ways than one. .
Monday 3rd Jan 20:30 to 22:35 Hrs.
The epic adaptation of Dava Sobel's
best-selling book, Longitude, starring MICHAEL GAMBON, JEREMY IRONS,
IAN HART and SAMUEL WEST, concludes tonight with Harrison and Gould
meeting more resistance from a blinkered and bigoted establishment.
It is now 20 years since his first voyage and John Harrison, still
determined to solve the Longitude problem, and his son William (Ian
Hart) attend a lecture by the rising academic Neville Maskelyne
(Samuel West) who is outlining the rival 'lunar' solution to the
The two men now battle to establish their solution to the problem
and William is sent on a sea trial to Jamiaica with Maskelyne to
prove that his father's latest clock can find any longitude at sea
- but resistance from Maskelyne and the Board prove frustrating
Meanwhile in the 20th century, Gould has obtained permission to
start work on the machines again but as World War Two breaks out,
Gould's health suffers and he find himself once again in the depths
As Rupert Gould discovers that after restoring the clocks he now
has another talent to draw upon, the usefulness of Harrison's clocks
is still disputed by the Board - and he is forced to appeal to the
King for help.
The following was published in The London
Times on Monday 23rd Aug. 1999 page 4 News:
Channel 4 clocks on with bestseller
to mark Millennium
LONGITUDE, the surprise bestselling
book, which made Dava Sobel, its author, a millionaire, has been
turned into a six million pound television drama to mark the millennium.
Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon star in the story of John Harrison,
an 18th-century English clockmaker who solved the problem of global
navigation by building the first virtually friction-free chronometer
with which a ship's position could be calculated to within a few
The book which topped the Christmas bestsellers list in 1996,
appealed to non-seafarers because of its fascinating portrayal of
the political intrigue and academic backbiting of the time. The
four-hour drama for Channel 4 has been directed by Charles Sturridge,
who was also responsible for such classic TV series as Brideshead
Revisited and Gulliver's Travels.
Channel 4 commissioned Longitude as part of its line-up of themed
programmes to mark the new millennium. It tells how the Government
was so desperate to reduce the number of sailors' deaths at sea
through poor navigation that it offered a 20,000 pound reward for
anyone who could convince the authorities that they had found a
Harrison, portrayed as a lonely genius, struggled for recognition
against cranks, one of whom believed longitude could be derived
from the yelps of injured dogs.
For the musical scenes the Oxford Magdalen College
Choir was trained to sing in the tuning which Harrison advocated,
using 256 Hz as the tonic for C, and intervals derived from pi.
Damian Law and Charles Lucy acted as consultants for this tuning
in the spring this year.
The original popular book on John Harrison
and the Problem of Longitude, based on original sources and with
Great reviews. Used as reference by
writers for television, radio, plays, books and other media. Frequently
updated and reprinted to meet demand.
John Harrison and the Problem of
Longitude ISBN 1 871443 13 X
more information and to buy this book from here EMail Hobden
Send (UK currency cheque) for ten UK
pounds made payable to The Cosmic Elk (add two pounds for countries
outside the EC.) and you will get your copy by return of post.
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