World on Fire (TV Series 2019– )
|Content Rating||TV-14 (TV-14)|
|Language||English, Polish, German, French|
World on Fire (TV series)
World on Fire is a British war drama series written by Peter Bowker. The first series aired in 2019 in the UK and in 2020 in the US, on PBS. A second series has been commissioned by the BBC.
The series follows the hidden lives of ordinary people from Britain, Poland, France, Germany and the United States during World War II. The drama switches its scenes between various locations in France, Britain, Germany and Poland. It features repeated visits to Paris, Warsaw, Manchester, Berlin and Dunkirk.
- Sean Bean as Douglas Bennett, a bus conductor, pacifist and shell-shocked veteran of the Battle of the Somme, and father to Lois and Tom.
- Julia Brown as Lois Bennett, a 21-year-old factory worker and talented singer who later joins the Entertainments National Service Association.
- Yrsa Daley-Ward as Connie Knight, a close friend, colleague and musical partner of Lois.
- Arthur Darvill as Wing Commander Vernon Hunter, an RAF fighter pilot.
- Blake Harrison as Sergeant Stan Raddings, Harry's platoon sergeant.
- Jonah Hauer-King as Harry Chase, an interpreter at the British embassy in Warsaw who is later commissioned into the British Army, and joins the SOE.
- Helen Hunt as Nancy Campbell, an American journalist struggling to broadcast the truth from Berlin.
- Patrick Kennedy as Campbell.
- Lesley Manville as Robina Chase, Harry's wealthy and emotionally repressed mother.
- Ewan Mitchell as Tom Bennett, Lois's older brother, a petty criminal who later joins the Royal Navy.
- Parker Sawyers as Albert Fallou, a Parisian jazz saxophonist and Webster's lover.
- Brian J. Smith as Webster O'Connor, a gay American doctor based in Paris and Nancy's nephew.
- Zofia Wichłacz as Kasia Tomaszeski, a waitress from Warsaw, with whose family Harry lodges, who later joins the Polish Resistance.
- Charlie Creed-Miles as David Walker, Harry's superior at the Warsaw embassy.
- Tomasz Kot as Stefan Tomaszeski, a veteran of World War I and father of Kasia, Jan and Grzegorz who rejoins the Polish army.
- Agata Kulesza as Maria Tomaszeski, Stefan's wife and mother of Kasia, Grzegorz and Jan.
- Victoria Mayer as Claudia Rossler, a German mother living in Berlin, struggling to contain the secret of her daughter's epilepsy.
- Max Riemelt as Schmidt, Nancy's Nazi censor and minder in Berlin.
- Mateusz Więcławek as Grzegorz Tomaszeski, Kasia's sickly younger brother who joins the Polish army with his father.
- Johannes Zeiler as Uwe Rossler, Claudia's husband who runs a textile firm.
- Bruno Alexander as Klaus Rossler, Claudia and Uwe's son, a German soldier.
- Matthew Aubrey as Private Taffy Morgan, a member of Harry's platoon.
- Eryk Biedunkiewicz as Jan Tomaszeski, Kasia's youngest brother, a schoolboy.
- Jack Deam as Ted, manager of Lois and Connie's ENSA unit.
- Eugénie Derouand as Henriette Guilbert, a nurse at Webster's hospital in Paris, secretly Jewish.
- Helene Grass as Frau Pessler, one of Uwe's employees, a committed Nazi.
- Ansu Kabia as Eddie Knight, Connie's husband, a jazz trumpeter.
- Jonathan McGuiness as Sir Oswald Mosley
- Ceallach Spellman as Private Joe Broughton, a member of Harry's platoon.
- Borys Szyc as Konrad, a Polish army soldier.
- Benedict Taylor as Dr Drake, head of a mental hospital in Manchester.
- Buom Tihngang as Demba, a Senegalese soldier who Harry meets in France.
- Benjamin Wainwright as Randy O'Connor, an American fighter pilot in Vernon's squadron, Web's brother.
- Tomasz Ziętek as Tomasz, a colleague of Kasia in the resistance.
- Dora Zygouri as Hilda Rossler, Claudia and Uwe's daughter, who has epilepsy.
Series 1 (2019)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Viewers|
|1||1||Episode 1||Adam Smith||Peter Bowker||29 September 2019||6.305|
|1939. As the threat of the Nazi regime looms large over Europe, translator Harry Chase vows to help his Polish lover Kasia Tomaszeski flee Warsaw, but also has his sweetheart Lois Bennett, waiting for him at home in Manchester. Meanwhile, American journalist and broadcaster Nancy Campbell is at the Polish-German border, witnessing the start of the German invasion of Poland. In Paris, surgeon Webster O’Connor finds the distant threat of war on his doorstep as he falls for French-African jazz musician Albert Fallou, who has been beaten up by the Action Française mob.|
|2||2||Episode 2||Adam Smith||Peter Bowker||6 October 2019||5.469|
|In devastated Warsaw, Kasia makes plans to flee with grief-stricken mother Maria Tomaszeski but gets caught in a resistance cell’s attack on German soldiers. Harry returns to Manchester. When he finally plucks up the courage to tell Lois the truth about Warsaw, she disarms him by declaring her love. Harry then travels to London where he’s dismissed from the diplomatic services because of his conduct in Warsaw. Tom Bennett shocks father Douglas by announcing he is now a conscientious objector, while in Berlin Nancy is frustrated by the growing power of the censor. In Paris, Webster and Albert are deeply in love, but their joy is overshadowed by the growing threat of prejudice they face.|
|3||3||Episode 3||Thomas Napper||Peter Bowker||13 October 2019||5.374|
|After enlisting in the navy, Tom finds himself on board HMS Exeter in pursuit of the notorious Graf Spee, a German pocket battleship which has been picking off British merchant ships for months. A huge naval battle ensues, and Tom’s moral compass is reset as he watches the carnage and death around him. As Tom fights for his life, Harry and Lois face a battle of their own. Harry is now a 2nd lieutenant, and is in France with the BEF, supervising the digging of foxholes and tank traps with his sergeant Stan Raddings, and trying to win the respect of his unit. When Lois arrives at the base camp to perform with ENSA, Harry’s two worlds collide. Lois is determined to ignore him and finds comfort in the arms of another soldier, Joe, who happens to belong to Harry’s unit, and there’s another shock in store for Harry when he later disciplines Joe, and finds out that Lois is pregnant.|
|4||4||Episode 4||Andy Wilson||Peter Bowker||20 October 2019||5.440|
|The phoney war is over. Harry and his unit are fighting for their lives in the town of Louvain, where German troops far outnumber those of the Allied forces. Harry is desperate to prove himself as a leader, but when the Nazis close in, Harry freezes. On the road to refuge Grzegorz Tomaszeski and Konrad are woken by a German soldier. Meanwhile, back in Warsaw, Kasia and Tomas’s resistance activity has horrific consequences as the Germans swiftly retaliate. In Paris, Webster is shocked to learn more of the rise of anti-Semitism in the city, when a Jewish couple come seeking his help. Despite hospital policy, Henriette persuades him to look after them, revealing that she too is Jewish. Secrets are also uncovered in Manchester, when Douglas guesses that Lois is hiding her pregnancy. Tom’s return brings momentary relief - until he confesses that he plans to desert the Navy. Nancy submits her script to Schmidt for censor notes, and he is incredulous that she is attempting to broadcast the euthanasia story. Nancy vows to broadcast the story somehow, but Schmidt threatens her: she won’t if she values the Rosslers’ daughter.|
|5||5||Episode 5||Chanya Button||Peter Bowker||27 October 2019||5.995|
|As thousands flee Nazi-occupied Belgium, Harry, Stan and the rest of their unit take the last route out of France - the road to be evacuated out of Dunkirk. When the boys finally make it to a field hospital, they find an overwhelmed Webster O’Connor dealing with an endless number of injured soldiers and civilians. Having stumbled across an ambulance of shell-shocked, traumatised troops (including Senegalese soldiers Demba and Ibrahim), Harry decides to stay with them. In Warsaw, Kasia’s campaign of fighting and eradicating the barbarous Germans has become routine; she’s worlds away from the young, carefree woman she used to be. Her part in the emerging Polish Resistance is firmly established. In Manchester, Lois and Connie are performing with ENSA at a northern airbase. Tom, now serving on HMS Keith, is reported missing at Dunkirk. They meet Wing Commander Vernon Hunter who is immediately drawn to Lois, charmed by her candour and humour. On saying goodbye, he promises to write to her. In Berlin the Rosslers are growing ever more fearful for Hilda. The only person Mr Rossler can turn to for help is Nancy.|
|6||6||Episode 6||Chanya Button||Peter Bowker||3 November 2019||5.911|
|June 1940. The Nazis have taken Paris with not a bullet fired. Webster and Albert's life in the city they love will never be the same again. In Berlin, Nancy finds herself once again at the centre of the Rosslers' increasingly desperate situation as both Mr and Mrs Rossler are arrested for neglecting their patriotic duties. Back in Manchester, Harry returns home with another companion, Demba, one of the heroic Senegalese troops who stayed by Harry's side at Dunkirk. And in Warsaw, Kasia's courageous resistance continues in earnest. As she and Tomasz take ever-greater risks in fighting the Germans, the net closes in on them.|
|7||7||Episode 7||Andy Wilson||Peter Bowker||10 November 2019||5.703|
|Now part of the Special Operations Executive, Harry is about to embark on his first mission. He’s stunned when Major Taylor tells him he must leave for Poland on a mission to intercept a resistance group who have been identified and targeted by the Nazis. Meanwhile, in Warsaw Kasia is led to the gallows until a bomb explodes amongst the watching crowds. Lois welcomes a baby daughter into the world, and it falls to Robina to break the news to Harry that he is now a father. This spurs Harry to head to the Bennett house, where he is met by Douglas, who warns him to stay away. Lois goes to the RAF base to meet Vernon, intending to decline his proposal. His plane is the last to return, and on seeing him, she accepts instead. Harry parachutes into Poland, landing behind enemy lines. Putting his language and military skills to the test, he meets with his Polish liaison. He’s led to a barn the network is using, and is at last reunited with Kasia. But the network is ambushed by the Germans and only Harry and Kasia escape, with soldiers close behind.|
According to a PBS article, the second series will continue from the end of the first but no date was available as of May 2020 for the US airing. Writer/Creator Peter Bowker offered these hints:
Kasia and Lois will meet, and the fallout from that, I think for everybody, will be interesting and fascinating. Season 2 will start, historically, with the blitz in the Northwest of England. And North Africa will be very much the field of battle. We’ll find out more about Webster’s family history. Nancy will finally have to leave Berlin near the start of the series, for crossing a line, and we will also find out more about Nancy. And she will carry on. She will definitely be in the Soviet Union for some of it. ... And Lois, of course, trapped in a rather Brontë-esque, loveless marriage with Vernon.
The seven-part series was commissioned by the BBC in October 2017, with Peter Bowker writing. Casting began in October 2018, with Helen Hunt and Lesley Manville amongst the first additions and filming beginning in Prague. Sean Bean was cast in November. Filming took place in Chester in November 2018, Liverpool in March 2019 and also included other locations such as Prague, Lytham St. Annes, Wigan and Lyme Park.
|No.||Title||Air date||C7 viewers|
|1||Episode 1||29 September 2019||6.305||1.397||7.702|
|2||Episode 2||6 October 2019||5.469||1.272||6.741|
|3||Episode 3||13 October 2019||5.374||1.028||6.402|
|4||Episode 4||20 October 2019||5.440||0.983||6.423|
|5||Episode 5||27 October 2019||5.995||0.785||6.780|
|6||Episode 6||3 November 2019||5.911||0.578||6.489|
|7||Episode 7||10 November 2019||5.703||0.502||6.205|
World on Fire was reviewed positively by Lucy Mangan of The Guardian. The historical accuracy of some elements of the series, however, was criticised by some reviewers, including columnist Peter Hitchens.