Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity

Series 1 - 1. Sparks

Radio Times
Review by:
Patrick Mulkern

Where would we be without electricity? “Our world would be dark and quiet, like at the beginning of the 18th century,” says Professor Jim Al-Khalili. A suitably luminous host, he takes us on a 300-year journey charting the leaps of imagination and the extraordinary experiments that led to our mastery of electricity.

It’s the sort of educational but accessible series BBC4 does so well. This repeat of the first of three programmes describes that initial spark, the maverick geniuses who harnessed what had been regarded as a divine or magical power. You may never look at an AA battery with indifference again.

About this programme

1/3. Jim Al-Khalili charts the history of mankind's attempt to understand and harness the power of electricity. He begins by exploring the writings and theories of scientific innovators including Humphrey Davy and Stephen Gray, and examines the methods they used to create and control electrical forces. He also tells the story of the battery, the first major breakthrough in the human race's battle to use electricity for its own ends.

Cast and crew


Jim Al-Khalili


Tim Usborne
Executive Producer
Tina Fletcher-Hill
Tim Usborne
Series Producer
Steve Crabtree