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.
As 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
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 longitude problem.
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 once again.
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 of despair.
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
surprise bestselling book, which made Dava Sobel, its author, a millionaire,
has been turned into a six million pound television drama to mark the
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 miles.
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 Revisitedand 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 solution.
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.
|Short QuickTime (.mov) extract from "Longitude" regarding music and pi (1.3 Meg)|
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
Damian Law and Charles Lucy acted as consultants for this tuning in the spring this year
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