Simon Young, BBC Head of History, Factual Commissioning, has announced a range of programming across modern and ancient history for BBC Two and iPlayer.

Simon Young says: “History is undergoing a real renaissance on TV, helping us not only to better understand the past, but also the age we live in today. The BBC, and the amazing producers we work with, are leading the charge with some genre-defining programmes and the titles we are announcing today show the sheer breadth, quality and variety of our output.”

The line up includes an in-depth look at the life of Volodymyr Zelensky, from actor and comedian to President of Ukraine; the team behind 9/11: The President’s War Room will examine the events on 7th July 2005 when four suicide bombers attacked central London, and the tense days that followed, in 7/7:Three Weeks in July (w/t); and there is a box set look at the reign of the archetypal dictator in Julius Caesar: Rise of the Roman Empire (w/t).

Columbia: The Final Flight (w/t) will hear from families of those who perished and staff at NASA who witnessed the terrible accident which killed the seven astronauts on board; and popular series A House Through Time will return with a twist, in two locations – London and Berlin – charting the histories of two unique buildings over three decades from the 1920s to the end of WW2.


This definitive boxset series charts the extraordinary evolution of Volodymyr Zelensky – from wide-eyed entertainer to president of Ukraine, to now, dressed in his ubiquitous khaki, close cropped beard and dark circles under his eyes – a defiant and calculating war leader.

Bringing together past and present, interweaving actuality, immersive archive and intimate testimony, award-winning series director Michael Waldman takes viewers inside the moral complexities of this chapter of world history; the life and death decisions, the power dynamics and the devastating human toll that war takes.

From Zelensky’s childhood as part of a Jewish family touched by the Holocaust, to starting his presidential campaign as a joke; from his career as a romcom movie star and the voice of Paddington Bear in Ukraine, to multiple assassination attempts – this is the incredible story of a globally significant war leader that is far wilder than fiction.

Zelensky, a 3×60’ for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by 72 Films. It was commissioned by Simon Young, BBC Head of History and the Executive Producer is David Glover.

7/7: Three Weeks in July (w/t)

7/7: Three Weeks in July (w/t) is from The Slate Works and the same award winning team who produced the multi award-winning BBC One documentary, 9/11 Inside the Presidents War Room.

This 4×60’ documentary series about 7/7 and its aftermath will tell the story of the day itself and the three weeks after the terrorist attack from all perspectives, giving new insights into this critical moment in British history.

With new unique access, the series will tell the story through the eyes of those who were there, following the police investigation as well as drawing on the experiences of the politicians that wrestling with what to do. It will be broadcast for the twentieth anniversary of the London attacks in 2025.

7/7: Three Weeks in July (w/t), a 4×60’ series for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by The Slate Works. It was commissioned by Simon Young, BBC Head of History, the Executive Producers are Neil Grant and Serena Kennedy and the Director is Adam Wishart.

Julius Caesar: Rise of the Roman Empire (w/t)

Julius Caesar: Rise of the Roman Empire (w/t) is a landmark three-part box set history series that tells the dramatic story of how nearly five centuries of ancient Roman democracy was overthrown in just 16 years. It the story of a brazen, ambitious power-grab that saw Julius Caesar consolidate the vast power of Rome in his own hands.

The series brings together an expert cast of historians, military leaders and experienced political operatives to unfold and analyse this epic story, exploring the how Caesar achieved his remarkable rise to power, the impact it had on Rome’s delicate political system and, asking ultimately why Caesar had to die?

Illustrated with tense drama and packed with contemporary resonances, this epic series has all the elements of the best political thrillers, with complex power dynamics playing out for the biggest of stakes: a psychological drama that seeks to get inside the minds of the protagonists. Combining landmark history with contemporary political analysis and compelling storytelling, each episode unpacks the final years of the Roman Republic in fascinating forensic detail.

Contributors include academics and experts such as the historian and author Tom Holland, Shelley Haley (Hamilton College, New York), classicist Kathryn Tempest (University of Roehampton), and contributions from individuals who bring unique perspectives on power, ambition and political strategy, such as former Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart.

Julius Caesar: Rise of the Roman Empire (w/t), a 3×60’ for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by BBC Studios The Documentary Unit, co-produced by PBS. It was commissioned by Simon Young, BBC Head of History and the Executive Producer is Alexander Leith. Bill Gardner is the Executive in Charge for PBS.

Columbia – The Final Flight (w/t)

Columbia – The Final Flight (w/t) combines first-hand testimony with previously unseen archive to chart the in-depth story of the space shuttle tragedy. Hearing from those closest to the story – the astronauts’ families and the staff at NASA – some of whom have never spoken before, this multi-part series reveals in unprecedented detail exactly how and why the disaster happened.

At the heart of the series are the stories of seven astronauts from America, Israel and India. Extensive and vivid home video footage taken during preparation for the mission and filmed whilst the astronauts were in space – including tape miraculously rescued from the shuttle debris – will bring to life an era that seemed to herald a routine and ever increasing permanent human presence in space. As plans intensify for a return to the moon, this is a timely exploration of the challenges and inherent dangers of space travel.

With access to NASA’s archives and employees working there at the time, the series will explore the story of one of America’s most iconic institutions, examining the collective decisions made before launch and during the mission, alongside the conclusions drawn by the official investigation into the disaster. The series will also reflect on the legacy of the Space Shuttle era and how it continues to inspire a new generation of space travel today.

Columbia – The Final Flight (w/t), a 3×60’ for BBC Two and iPlayer, is a co-production with CNN Original Series and Mindhouse. It was commissioned by Simon Young, BBC Head of History and the Executive Producers are Emma Tutty and Emma Whitehead. The Executive Producers for CNN are Amy Entelis and Lyle Gamm. The series is being distributed globally by BBC Studios.

A House Through Time

Two nations. Two cities. Two blocks of flats. Twelve households. All living through one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history: the Second World War.

David Olusoga returns with his popular history series, but this time with a difference. It’s the tale of two apartment blocks, one in London, the other in Berlin, over three decades, from the Roaring Twenties to the aftermath of World War Two.

Using painstaking detective work, David hunts down records for the diverse residents of two buildings in two great cities. The cast of characters includes a soldier, an artist, a Nazi teacher, an African academic, a Jewish refugee, an Italian waiter, a poet, a prisoner of war, a woman spy, and an SS officer.

Europe is at a crossroads and these ordinary people face extraordinary choices: to stay or to go, to speak out or stay quiet, to go to war or fight for peace. Told through their personal experiences, this is the story of the winners and the losers, the persecutors and the persecuted, those who survive and those who don’t.

A House Through Time: A Tale of Two Cities, a 4×60’ for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by Twenty Twenty. It was commissioned by Simon Young, BBC Head of History and the Executive Producer is Mary Crisp.

Jon Creamer

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