Building the Impossible BBC2 Friday, December 6, 9-10pm
One thing you learn early on in this series is that the experiments undertaken by Professor Chris Wise and Dr Caroline Baillie are not the sort of thing you should try at home. "Now, if that breaks, it's instant decapitation," one of the team says cheerfully, as they rig up a Roman catapult. Arrows fly, siege engines fling bolders in all directions and the intrepid pair build an Egyptian pharoah's tomb and stick a 25-tonne rock over the sarcophagus. Then there is the small matter of the 18th-century flying machine. The educational part is not so much to do with safety at work, however, or even history, but physics and the science of materials, about which Wise and Baillie know an awful lot. You do feel it would be a bit of a waste if they got their sums wrong and decapitated themselves.
Young Dr Freud BBC2 Saturday, December 7, 7.10-8pm
It is fashionable nowadays in some quarters to dismiss Freudian psychoanalysis as outmoded and discredited, so this two-part biography is welcome as a reminder of how deeply Freud changed the way we understand ourselves and, particularly, how he got to his model of the human mind. The approach in the films is slightly pedestrian, with a familiar mixture of archive film, expert talking heads, dramatisations and rostrum camera work, but the narrative is splendidly clear and informative. Step-by-step, we follow young Sigmund from his studies in Paris on what was then called hysteria to his conclusion that this was the outcome of early sexual abuse. Next week's episode sees why he changed this opinion as a result of his own self-analysis. The two parts add up to an effective introduction to a turning-point in social and medical history.
Turning Points: ID Citizenship BBC2 Wednesday, December 11, 2-4am.
BBC Education's programming for overnight transmission this week concentrates on PSHE for over-11s, centering on this four-part documentary which deals with acquiring the necessary skills to become an active and responsible citizen. Peer pressure and responsibility feature in the two dramas, "Offside" and "Terraces", which follow on the same day. Then, on Thursday, the wee small hours are given over to politics, with an emphasis on doing something about it - even before reaching voting age - in three programmes: "A-Z of Politics," "Active Citizenship: Get Involved" and "Lifeschool: C for Citizen".
GCSE Bitesize: Physics BBC2 Sunday, December 8, 3-5am
Most schools broadcasting has already shut down for the holidays, but GCSE Bitesize doesn't even take Sundays off. This week, a new unit looking at electricity, forces and motion, waves, energy resources and radioactivity. And the series will no doubt spend the Christmas break preparing for next term's new history and religious studies programmes. A lesson to us all.
World Human Rights Day Discovery Civilisation Tuesday, December 10, 8pm-1am
The Discovery Civilisation channel is marking Human Rights Day with four documentaries. The first is a two-hour film about the "Civil Rights Martyrs" in the struggle for racial equality in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. This is followed by a hour-long profile of black leader Marcus Garvey. Killed by the Klan, at 11pm, describes how the wife and children of a man murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1966 finally brought him to justice 30 years later. And, at midnight, Admission Impossible travels to Australia, recalling the largely undercover racist campaign to Keep Australia White.