Review: BBC2 drama-doc 100 Days to Victory was an effective way of delivering a much-needed history lesson

It's weird how something as literally world-changing as the First World War seems to have become so familiar.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 26th October 2018, 4:23 pm
Updated Friday, 26th October 2018, 4:28 pm
A rare moment of relaxation in a reconstruction from 100 Days to Victory, a new drama-documentary on BBC2
A rare moment of relaxation in a reconstruction from 100 Days to Victory, a new drama-documentary on BBC2

We all know the names – the Somme, Ypres, Passchaendale – and we have come to understand the slaughter on both sides.

So when a programme comes along and tells you something you don’t know, it casts a new light on history.

100 Days to Victory (BBC2, Thursdays, 8pm) used a mish-mash of CGI, reconstructions, talking heads and archive footage to tell the story of the final 100 days of the war – from a final, massive, German offensive, to the Armistice.

Hands up who didn’t know there had been a final German offensive in the spring of 1918? Hands up who didn’t know they managed to get within 8okm of Paris? And hands up who didn’t know a combined British-French-Canadian-Australian-US force drove the Germans back?

See? Told you there was stuff to learn.

This being an Australian production, there was quite a lot of attention paid to the Dominion troops who fought – and died – alongside the French and British.

While British commander Douglas Haig was all stiff-upper-lipped donkey leading lions: “Every position must be held to the last man, there must be no retirement... each one of us must fight to the end.”

And the computer graphics and reconstruction were a little stiff and hokey, but it brought home the terrible, industrial nature of the war.

Did you know the Germans used a super-gun which flung shells which flew for three minutes before they hit their target, for instance?

At this time of remembrance, it was a useful history lesson, and if we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it.

New spy thriller Berlin Station (More4, Thursdays, 9pm) was a little slow-paced, and borrowed considerably from Homeland, but had a promisingly gritty opening, and Berlin looked incredible.

The bakers on Bake-Off don’t seem to have grabbed the public’s attention this year, Rahul apart, but over on Extra Slice (Channel 4, Fridays, 8pm), Tom Allen is taking his chance to upstage everyone.