Taken to the limit in Africa

29th September 2006 at 01:00
Not only disability, but heat, wild animals and group dynamics to deal with on a 1,500km trek

Beyond Boundaries. BBC1, Sunday, October 1, 9-10pm

The series Beyond Boundaries returns this week with a four-parter following an expedition across Africa, as leader Ken Hames steers 11 disabled people on a journey of 1,500 kilometres from the Zambezi River to the Skeleton Coast. The aim is to show the participants - and the viewers - how much they can achieve when taken to the limit: an interesting approach, given that we live in a society which is (quite rightly) concerned most of the time with making life easier for those with disabilities.

Africans in the villages that they pass along the way are surprised to see people who clearly need help being allowed to struggle along in the heat, especially white people who are usually encountered behind the wheels of off-road vehicles. The heat quickly proves to be one of the main obstacles, but there are also wild animals, swamps and deserts to contend with, as well as serious stresses within the group.

Morale is pretty fragile and, at some time or another, several out of the 11 will consider giving up. One, perhaps unexpected, result of the experiment is to show how unsympathetic people with disabilities can be towards one another, particularly those whose conditions seem less serious than their own. The least amount of sympathy goes out to Peter, who has Tourette's syndrome, a less obvious disadvantage than a missing limb or paralysis. The other participants are inclined to complain that he is not pulling his weight. But it becomes clear very early on that the challenge for all is a real one (and would be so for any group of people). To succeed, they will have to overcome their irritations and resentments, and learn to work as a team. There are lessons for everyone here, as well as insights into the lives and feelings of those with disabilities. Even for the viewer, this is not a comfortable trip.

HG Wells: War with the World. BBC2, Saturday, September 30, 9.10-10.40pm

Appropriately enough, given its subject, James Kent's drama is a kind of time machine, whisking us backwards and forwards through Wells's life. We start in 1934, while the writer is on a visit to Moscow. In his hotel room, he puts a sheet of paper into the typewriter and hammers out An Experiment in Autobiography. This is the cue for the action to return to 1907, a meeting of the Fabian Society and a tussle with George Bernard Shaw. From then on, we keep going backwards and forwards (four time locations in the first 10 minutes), while Michael Sheen (who plays Wells) seems to remain at more or less the same age, regardless of where in the 20th century he pops up.

There are two guiding themes in all this: Wells's belief that we can only be saved from catastrophe by world government and his affair with the feminist writer Rebecca West. From the first arena, he emerges as something of a visionary; from the second as a complete cad. He was surely a bit of both and since the words are mainly Wells's own, the film is an effective, even rather jolly primer on his life.

Anatomy of the Musical. BBC Radio 4, Tuesday, October 3, 1.30-2pm

Russell Davies analyses the musical in three songs: the Opener, the Love Song and finally the Showstopper (or "take-home" song). With the help of current practitioners in the genre, he also looks at how it has changed and gives examples from famous shows of the past.

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