NOVA: Darwin's Darkest Hour

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 8:00pm

Pictured: Charles Darwin (Henry Ian Cusick)

Credit: Chris Reardon ©NGT

This fall, NOVA celebrates the 200th anniversary year of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book the Origin of Species with three evolution-themed programs.Each film will approach the topic of evolution in a different way. To kick off NOVA’s fall season on Tuesday, October 6 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/cable11), Henry Ian Cusick (Lost) and Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park) star in Darwin’s Darkest Hour, a two-hour scripted drama that presents the remarkable story behind the birth of Darwin’s radically controversial theory of evolution and reveals his deeply personal crisis: whether to publish his earthshaking ideas, or to keep quiet to avoid
potential backlash from the Church.
Darwin 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.