In this fascinating series Sir Tony Robinson journeys through time to uncover amazing, dramatic and bizarre stories from the past. His travels take him from ancient Rome and colonial Australia, to Victorian era London, early-settler New Zealand and beyond. Each episode explores a compelling theme: from daring escapes, state secrets and ingenious inventions, to battling oppression, epic disasters and incredible twists of fate. Tony reveals the pivotal turning points in history that changed the destiny of empires and transformed our world.
Part 1: GreatEscapes
This episode explores the extraordinary lengths people will go to in search of freedom, as Tony meets some of history’s greatest escape artists. In 1800s Australia, destiny hinges on the flip of a coin as an influential pioneer risks his life in a duel. Next Tony reveals the bizarre disguise a convict adopted during his dash for freedom from Tasmania’s notorious Port Arthur penal settlement. In the 20th century Tony follows a harrowing chase across Victoria involving a famous racehorse and a gang with murder on its mind
Part 2: Twists of Fate
Uncanny coincidences are scattered throughout history, leading to the downfall of empires and the good fortune of everyday citizens. In this episode Tony uncovers how a deadly medieval plague was able to infiltrate a thriving Australian town in the 1900s. He ponders the destiny of a group of World War II soldiers who, by signing their names on a wall, enlisted them into a very special club. Tony reveals how a serious error of judgement nearly damned the lives of everyone in Australia’s First Fleet, but that a happy accident and an unexpected visitor proved the catalysis for their salvation
Part 3: In Cold Blood
From calculating killers to merciless victors, in this episode Tony seeks to answer why some people will stop at nothing to get what they desire. He travels to 1950s New Zealand to uncover what triggered the killing of an innocent victim by two friends and why the disturbing case captured headlines around the world. Tony investigates a 17th century Dutch shipwreck off the coast of Australia that caused one man to carry out a hideous crime on an unimaginable scale
Part 4: Disasters
Catastrophes capture both the tragedy of life and the strength of the human spirit. In this episode Tony examines the series of events that lead to disasters and the legacies it leaves behind. From a daredevil acrobat risking his life in 19th century Sydney, to the ill-fated Burke and Wills cross-continental expedition. In New Zealand Tony unearths long lost treasures that have resurfaced in the wake of Christchurch’s destructive earthquake
Part 5: Secrets of the State
Secrets damage governments and change the destiny of empires. In this episode Tony reveals the extraordinary measures powerful people take, to deceive the public and cover up the truth. Tony exposes the untold story of a wartime mutiny in Queensland, deemed so dangerous an American president suppressed it for 70 years.
Part 6: Mothers of Invention
Light bulb moments have transformed our planet, with the rapid pace of change galvanizing humanity’s pioneering spirit. In this episode Tony discovers the inspirations, set backs and ingenuity that lead to astonishing feats of invention. To discover how powered flight first began Tony joins a group of enthusiasts in country Victoria, attempting to get a replica plane off the ground. In 1890s Western Australia Tony meets a humble engineer, whose ambitious solution to a desperate problem catapulted him to fame before ending in tragedy
Part 7: History’s Battlers
In this episode Tony travels through history to discover the ordinary men and women who rally against the odds. He takes us to 1820s Parramatta where he finds out how defiant female convicts challenged the penal system and won. In the 1970s, Tony reveals the unlikely protestors who try to save heritage buildings at the expense of future jobs. Journeying to early colonial Tasmania, Tony finds the indigenous people struggling against abduction, enslavement and annihilation.
Part 8: Rebels with a Cause
History is full of rule breakers and rabble-rousers who stand up against injustice. In this episode Tony embarks upon a journey to find out just what it takes to make a difference. Time traveling to the first century A.D. in Britain, Tony tells how a Celtic Queen fought back Roman invaders. He visits 19th century New Zealand, to understand the women who struggled and won the right to be heard. Tony lands in the Victorian Goldfields to witness a pivotal moment in Australian history where democracy was born.
Part 9: Eat Drink and be Merry
The never-ending quest to satisfy humankind’s senses has led to some magnificent culinary creations. But it’s also caused great conflict – from the toppling of leaders to the creation of empires. In this episode Tony embarks on a gastronomic journey from the origins of the famous Pavlova dessert, to the discovery of one of the world’s greatest wine regions. He time travels back to the early days of Australia’s colonial settlement and learns how rum sparked a mutiny that brought down a government.
Part 10: Artistic Forces
Over the centuries art has influenced societies and altered viewpoints. In this episode Tony takes a fascinating spin through time and space to determine art’s impact on history. He journeys back to the 1930s, to unravel the mystery of a phantom graffiti artist covering an Australian city with an enigmatic single word. In New Zealand, Tony sees how a famous movie director’s vision dramatically transformed his hometown.