BBC1 to make epic Second World War drama called World on Fire

The A Word and Marvellous writer Peter Bowker will script the seven-part series which will tell the human story from both sides of the conflict, to mark 80 years since the start of World War Two

Second World War

Peter Bowker, the writer behind Bafta-winning BBC drama Marvellous, is writing an landmark BBC1 drama series telling the story of the Second World War from both sides of the conflict.

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World on Fire will focus on the human stories of the war, beginning with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and ending with the Battle of Britain in 1940.

The drama will be produced by Victoria and Poldark producers Mammoth Screen.

“World on Fire tells the hidden human stories within the big historical events we think we know,” said writer Bowker. “From Harry, a young English translator in Warsaw caught up in negotiations with the Nazis and trying to smuggle his Polish lover Kasia out of the country, to Lois, the girl who is waiting for him at home, a young Mancunian factory worker who will come to take all the opportunities the war can offer to live a different kind of life. To Nancy, a female US war correspondent who can’t find peace unless her life is at risk, to the Rossler family in Berlin, worried for their soldier son and willing to do anything to protect their disabled daughter from the attentions of the ruling Nazi regime.”

He continued, “These are the stories of the ordinary people who shaped our world.  Stories of loyalty and brutality, courage and fear, hopes, stories of love and loss, hopes and dreams forged in extraordinary times.”

Damien Timmer, Mammoth Screen Managing Director, added, “Our aim is to tell a properly epic, deeply characterful and intensely adrenalised story, shot through with Pete’s characteristic irreverence and humanity.  A drama that pieces together the story of World War Two from the inside, that traces the connections between allies and enemies, an epic story told on a human scale.”

The drama was announced today by Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, who said of the series: “Eighty years on from the start of World War Two, Pete Bowker deploys his unique talent for creating utterly relatable and vividly drawn characters to tell the story of one of the great tipping points in twentieth century history, drawing us gradually and deftly into the creeping horror of the outbreak of war.”

Filming will commence next year in locations in the UK and across Europe for a likely broadcast in 2019, the 80th anniversary of the start of the war.

Wenger also announced a new epic series about the life of Christine Keeler, the woman at the centre of the Profumo scandal.

He has also green lit Trigonometry, an eight-part BBC2 series written by Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods. The “playful, funny and frank account of modern love and sex in a fast changing world” follows three couples in contemporary London.

Also commissioned is a five-part thriller The North Water, based on the critically acclaimed novel from Ian McGuire.

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Set in Hull and the ice floes of the Arctic in the late 1850s the BBC2 drama will tell the story of Patrick Sumner, a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic.