It’s Official: BBC Two Orders 90 Minute Challenger Disaster TV Movie

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Earlier this month, TVWise broke the news that BBC Two had given the green-light to a TV movie about the Challenger disaster titled Final Flight. In the previous report, we revealed that the movie was a co-production with America’s Science Channel and that the project, which was written by Kate Gartside, was based on Richard Feynman’s book What Do You Care What Other People Think and was being described as a “political drama surrounding the Challenger disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986.” BBC Two made that official today by formally announcing that they had commissioned the 90 minute drama.

The TV movie, which I’m told is still using Final Flight as a working title, tells the story of the aftermath of the Challenger disaster. The movie follows the establishment of a Presidential Commission and the ensuing investigation. But with the vast complexity of the space shuttle and so many vested interests involved in the investigation, discovering the truth was an almost impossible challenge. A truly independent member of the investigation was Richard Feynman. One of the most accomplished scientists of his generation, he worked on the Manhattan Project building the first atom bomb and won the Nobel Prize for his breakthroughs in quantum physics. Feynman deployed exceptional integrity, charm and relentless scientific logic to investigate the secrets of the shuttle disaster and, in doing so, helped make the US space program safer.

The 90 minute TV movie is a co-production of BBC Scotland Science and Science Channel and stars William Hurt (Altered States), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek), Brian Dennehy (Twelfth Night), Joanne Whalley (The Borgias), Kevin McNally (Pirates Of The Caribbean), Henry Goodman (The Merchant Of Venice) and Eve Best (Nurse Jackie). Mark Hedgecoe, Cassian Harrison and Rocky Collins are serving as executive producers, with Laurie Borg and Theresa Ryan Van Graan serving as producers and James Hawes on board as director. Production is due to commence later this month, for an early 2013 premiere on BBC Two.

“This is the gripping story of a brilliant physicist’s battle for scientific truth in the dark corridors of big government”, said Kim Shillinglaw, the BBC’s Commissioning Editor of Science and Natural History. “With an impressive cast, including award-winning actor William Hurt, it promises to be a powerful factual drama for BBC Two and part of our mission to make science programmes ever more surprising and ambitious.”

“The Challenger disaster represents an indelible moment in American history – anyone who is old enough to recall it remembers exactly where they were then this terrible tragedy occurred,” says Debbie Myers, General Manager and Executive Vice President of Science Channel. “Science Channel is honoured to work with the incomparable William Hurt to tell the story of Richard Feynman, a true-life hero and one of most controversial scientific minds of our time.”

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