Episode Information

NOVA: Darwin's Darkest Hour
Aired:
12/09/2011
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In this episode:

Tragedy, Triumph & The Birth Of A New Idea: The crisis that forced Darwin to publish his theory of evolution.

 


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FRI 12/9/2011

8:00PM on CPTV
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NOVA

DARWIN'S DARKEST HOUR

NOVA and National Geographic Television present the extraordinary human drama that led to the birth of the most influential scientific theory of all time. Acclaimed screenwriter John Goldsmith (“David Copperfield,” “Victoria and Albert”) brings to life Charles Darwin’s greatest personal crisis: the anguishing decision over whether to “go public” with his theory of evolution. Darwin, portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick (“Lost”), spent years refining his ideas and penning his seminal book, On the Origin of Species.

Daunted by looming conflict with the orthodox religious values of his day, he resisted publishing — until a letter from naturalist Alfred Wallace forced his hand. In 1858, Darwin learned that Wallace was on the brink of publishing ideas similar to his own. In a sickened panic, Darwin grasped his dilemma: To delay publishing any longer would be to condemn all of his work to obscurity — his voyage on the Beagle, his adventures in the Andes, the gauchos and bizarre fossils of Patagonia, the finches and giant tortoises of the Galapagos. But to come forward with his ideas risked the fury of the church and perhaps a rift with his own devoted wife, Emma, portrayed by Frances O’Connor (“Mansfield Park,” The Importance of Being Earnest , Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence), who clung to a devout, orthodox view of creation. This moving drama about the birth of a great idea is seen through the inspiration and personal sufferings of its brilliant originator.

In crafting a film about Charles Darwin's great dilemma—whether or not to go public with his incendiary theory of evolution—scriptwriter John Goldsmith faced some quandaries of his own: How do you offer a fresh portrayal of one of the world's most iconic figures? What's more, how do you avoid the "gotchas" of countless Darwin experts apt to catch any tiny inaccuracy? In his interview, Goldsmith, who years ago traced part of Darwin's Beagle voyage to better understand the man, explains his fascination with both Darwin and his wife Emma, and the extraordinary research he did to get the details right.


 
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