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Darwin's Darkest Hour


(Program not available for streaming.) This two-hour scripted drama tells the remarkable story behind the unveiling of the most influential scientific theory of all time, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. The program is a special presentation from NOVA and National Geographic Television, written by acclaimed British screenwriter John Goldsmith and directed by John Bradshaw.




Darwin's Darkest Hour



Reviewed by: Darwin's Darkest Hour, and: Creation Janet Browne Darwin's Darkest Hour (120 min.; dir. John Bradshaw; 2009). With Henry Ian Cusick, Nigel Bennett, Jeremy Akerman, Frances O'Connor. Scripted by John Goldsmith. Nova and National Geographic Television; aired October 6, 2009, PBS. Creation (108 min.; dir. Jon Amiel; 2009). With Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly. Scripted by John Collee. Recorded Picture Company. Darwin's Darkest Hour, a two-hour documentary-drama, was produced by Nova in association with National Geographic Television to show the development of Charles Darwin's evolutionary views in historical and domestic context. Unlike all the other TV documentaries that were released in 2009 to commemorate Darwin's bicentenary year, this is offered as a historical drama in full period costume. The script and the action are intended to carry the storyline with little further ado: there are no talking heads, no explanatory voice-overs. Issues of faith, scientific credibility, ambition, and research are handled as natural elements of the story. This reviewer has to declare an interest in that I read the script at an early stage of development. Even so, I do feel that this is well done. The documentary is a pleasure to watch, the main threads are easy to understand, the historical structure does not stand in the way of our emotional engagement with the characters, and there are some very nice moments that work extremely well indeed. The cast is excellent, especially the outstanding Darwin (Henry Ian Cusick). Their words are mostly taken from letters and diaries, discreetly updated.


But 'the darkest hour of night is that whichprecedes the dawn,' and while the forces of reactionin this country appeared to be triumphant overHutton's teaching, there was in preparation, to use thewords of Darwin, a 'grand work' ... 'which the futurehistorian will recognise as having produced a revolutionin natural science.'


In the spring of 1858, Wallace was at Ternate inthe island of Celebes, where he lay sick with fever,[Pg 112]and as his thoughts wandered to the ever-presentproblem of species, there suddenly recurred to hismemory the writings of Malthus, which he had readtwelve years before. Then and there, 'in a suddenflash of insight' the idea of natural selection presenteditself to his mind, and after a few hours'thought the chief points were written down, andwithin a week the matter was 'copied on thin letter-paper'and sent to Darwin by the next post, with aletter to the following effect[113]. Wallace stated thatthe idea seemed new to himself and he asked Darwin,if he also thought it new, to show it to Lyell, whohad taken so much interest in his former paper.Little did Wallace think, in the absence of allknowledge on his part of Darwin's own conclusions,what stir would be made by his paper when it arrivedin England!


His constant practice, whenever I visited him,either at Down or at his brother's or daughter's housein London, was to retire with me, after lunch, to aroom where we could 'talk geology' for about threequarters of an hour. At the end of that time,Mrs Darwin would come in smilingly, and though noword was spoken by her, Darwin would at once riseand beg me to read the newspaper for a time, or, if Ipreferred it, to take a stroll in the garden; and afterurging me to stay 'if I could possibly spare the time,'would go away, as I understood to lie down. On hisreturn, about half an hour later, the discussion wouldbe resumed where it had been left off, without furtherremark.


The morning comes, and I take a few more notes under the brilliant white of my headtorch. Even the geese are still asleep, and the only sound is that of my fountain pen scrawling across the soft paper of this latest notebook. After a while, a pair of headlamps appear off to the right, and their beam shines up into the dark sky as the car comes up and over the level crossing. Lights appear in the sheds behind the clubhouse, and before long another set of beams are moving across the links, sweeping light into the darkest corners like the nocturnal snow machines of the high mountain ski resorts.


Before long we are inspecting our shoes by the clubhouse door, but the shoe cleaner is redundant today. For, winter or not, this sandy soil is made for golf, and the course leaves no trace on our clothes but only on our hearts. I take in a bowl of fine soup, and get ready to head south once again, but it feels emotional somehow, crossing the tracks to leave Goswick behind. For six hours the motorway traffic and fading light cannot bother me, for I am full of reflections and ideas, inspired by what I\u2019ve seen. I\u2019d waited months to make this journey, and had some expectations of what I might find, but the place is so much more than just a great golf course. It feels like an ecosystem in and of itself, nestled quietly in the sand dunes. 041b061a72


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