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Honey, I Shrunk The World...
Episode 1
James Mays 20th Century "Honey, I Shrunk The World"
At the beginning of the 20th Century, long distance travel was for the military-minded, the uprooted and the plain rich, but the pioneers of flight were to change all that. To find out how, James May gets his hands on a Vickers Vimy aircraft that in 1919 carried two intrepid Brits, Alcock and Brown, across the Atlantic for the first time. But it wasnt just flying that changed our perception of the world. The motor car offered us a new sense of freedom, but when James tries out a 1908 Model T Ford, he discovers driving was once a very tricky business indeed. As he observes: "The right pedal was the brake and the middle pedal was reverse gear. There was no clutch as such: the left pedal was both clutch and forward gears - depending on how far pressed. Im amazed this driving thing ever took off. " Shrinking the world wasnt just about travel becoming easier and more affordable. For the first time in history we could bring the world to us via the cinema. James shoots his own black and white newsreel at Walthamstow Dog Track and looks back at the early days of television when two different formats fought for supremacy. Finally, James faces a dilemma: in 1969, two technologies emerged that promised to change our world forever. The first was the supersonic aircraft, Concorde. The second was computer messages, one day millions of emails would travel the world thanks to optic fibre cables. But in the late sixties which one would he have backed? "Dont you think its weird that when it comes to shrinking the world, this piece of fibre has completely triumphed over that magnificent supersonic airliner? It seems to me we spent the first three-quarters of the 20th century going out into the world, trying to see more and more of it, and then in the last few decades weve realised that actually we can bring quite a lot of it to us down this optical string thing."
Added on September 21, 2011
Blast Off
Episode 2
James Mays 20th Century "Blast Off"
Like many small boys James May dreamt of becoming an astronaut. Even though he may not have realised his dream he sets off to find out what space exploration has done for him, and the rest of us. And hes got just the right motor to begin the journey - a moon buggy "The moon buggy, or Lunar Rover Vehicle to give it its proper name, has to have been the most expensive car ever made. It cost 38 million dollars. And that didnt include delivery". His first stop is Staveley Road, Chiswick, West London. It was here that Britain felt the first impact of the space race in 1944, when the street was struck by a Nazi V2 the rocket powered terror weapon, and the distant ancestor of the Saturn V that put a man on the Moon in 1969. Next James links up with a team of amateur rocketeers to understand the pyrotechnic principles of rocket science first hand, before heading to Cape Canaveral in Florida, to see the real deal for himself. Here he meets a veteran of the Apollo programme and pays homage to the massive, 525ft, Saturn V. From there he probes the depths of the universe thanks to the enormous radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, and confronts the full implications of the revolutionary 20th Century theory - the Big Bang. Then its off to Mission Control, Guildford, where James borrows a satellite orbiting 700km overhead to take a photograph of Earth. Finally James talks to astronaut John Blaha, who has spent nearly six months in orbit, in order to understand how going into space changes the way you see the world. "Even the pilot of Apollo 9 said he felt lucky to be "looking down like a guardian angel on all of history and music.. of life and love". And its not like he was a hippy or anything", says James.
Added on September 21, 2011
Body Fantastic
Episode 3
James Mays 20th Century "Body Fantastic"
James sets out to discover how far he can push his body and finds out about some of the most remarkable medical advances over the last hundred years.He begins by testing himself in a centrifuge a machine that can make fighter pilots and astronauts break out in a cold sweat. He wants to find out what would happen to his body when it is subjected to high forces.As he reached 4.4 g he passed out:"There was no doubt that Id clearly reached my limit. The blood was forced from my head to my feet and I passed out."He then tries out anti-g trousers, and manages to get to 5.4 g without passing out.Next stop is New York where James meets a group of athletes that have pushed their bodies to the limit to get extraordinary results. These elite sportsmen and women have each lost a leg but are able to run long distances at high speed thanks to hi-tech prosthetic replacements.They are now winning against able-bodied competitors, a success which has brought the remarkable complaint that the disabled athletes may have a competitive advantage because of their artificial limbs.Back in the UK James is invited to watch open heart surgery - and sees a mans heart come to a complete stop during the operation. But James biggest surprise came when he looked at one of the 20th centurys greatest medical breakthroughs the discovery of DNA. He had his DNA tested: "To be honest Im so English that Im assuming Im descended from a piece of fruit cake and cricket bat, but lets see."The results, however, were not at all what he expected.
Added on September 21, 2011
Take Cover
Episode 4
James Mays 20th Century "Take Cover"
In Take Cover, James looks at how warfare drives ingenuity and gets to fly in the RAFs latest supersonic jet. Its an experience that he describes as "the most amazing thing I have ever done".The film begins by looking at the early days of air war at the start of the 20th Century. James flies in a biplane to get to grips with how difficult it was for the early aviators to hit any targets. Using flour bombs, he tries to hit a target on the ground. Its a lot more difficult than he imagined.He also meets a group of ex-Paras to try some "make up for men", camouflage paint. When he fails to spot the Paras hidden in the woods he turns to modern technology for help.James moves on to look at "the biggest art show of the century", one of the most curious innovations to come from the military world. Its called dazzle camouflage, and it involved painting warships in a confusing series of lines and stripes. Thousands of ships were painted like this to confuse German U boats during the First World War.Finally James meets up with Squadron Leader Paul Godfrey. Hes been invited to fly in the Typhoon, the RAFs latest jet fighter. He has a private pilots licence - but only at 4,000ft at 120 knots. The Typhoon is a plane that can go from a standing start to six miles high in 150 seconds.After landing James admits he was slightly emotional: "Well, I admit I was a bit nervous when we set off but, absolutely unquestionably and not anything to do with bigging it up for television, that was the best thing I have ever experienced. It is, it is breathtaking, it really is, I cant really describe what its like. Its life-changing, frankly."
Added on September 21, 2011