Beat The Ancestors

Contact: Julie Miller 020 7436 3633

A team of modern-day engineers are about to do battle against history’s most ingenious minds...

Channel 5 today announces a brand new commission: Beat The Ancestors, co-produced by Dragonfly and GroupM Entertainment. The five-part series sees a team of modern day engineers set a double challenge: rebuilding some of history’s most impressive machines, and seeing if they can use their twenty-first century know-how to improve them.  As they get to work on a Byzantine Fire Boat, a Roman War Machine, a Medieval Machine Gun, a Gothic Megacrane and Churchill’s Rocket Parachute, ancient genius will be revealed and modern ingenuity tested.We may think we’re the smartest generation to have lived. But once the playing field is levelled, and past faces present in a head-to-head contest, who will triumph?

Engineer Dick Strawbridge (MBE) presents the series, and acts as ringmaster at Build HQ. Once he’s got the team underway, he’ll use spectacular CGI to explode and explore the original machines, and travel the country to reveal how they changed history.  Meanwhile, our engineers will grapple with historical blueprints, original building materials, and whatever modern insights they can bring to the challenges set.  At the end of three days, the new machines will be put through a series of exacting tests.  Will the team have been able to match their forefathers’ skill?  Will their improvements have taken these already-impressive inventions to the next level?  Or will they be left humiliated and humbled, with a new respect for the generations who’ve got us to where we are today?

The programme was ordered by Andrew O’Connell, Channel 5’s Head of Factual, News and Current Affairs and will be overseen by Commissioning Editor of Factual, John Hay.

John Hay said: "I love this idea, and Dick and Dragonfly have pulled it off brilliantly. We're always looking at ways to scale up our factual programming and this delivers with both barrels."

Dick Strawbridge says: "Our ancestors have made us who we are today. This series allows us to celebrate those amazing people who changed the world into the one we now live in; it's great fun and a little scary. I love the fact that, if we are limited to the materials our forebears had, we really struggle to design and out-perform machines centuries old, even with all our 21st century knowledge and skills."


Tony Moulsdale Head of Programming for GroupM Entertainment said: "This is an exciting project for GroupM Entertainment to get behind. It's big, ambitious and a unique way of looking at history added to which, Dragonfly are superbly placed to deliver what is certain to be high quality and dramatic television."




The series will take the following format: 5 x 60’

The programme was ordered by Andrew O’Connell, Channel 5’s Head of Factual, News and Current Affairs and will be overseen by Commissioning Editor of Factual, John Hay

Produced by Dragonfly Film and Television/GroupM Entertainment

Executive Producer - Mark Roberts

Series Producer - David Vallance 

Exec Producer for GroupM Entertainment - Melanie Darlaston 

Presenter Dick Strawbridge, MBE is an engineer, television presenter and environmentalist.

About Channel 5

Channel 5 attracts over 45 million viewers each month. In Q1 2012 Channel 5 was the only terrestrial broadcaster to increase its share of viewing amongst all viewers (by 5%), ABC1 adults (10%) and 16-34s (20%) year on year.  Across the same time period, in the 8-11pm slot, Channel 5 beat BBC2 36 times and Channel 4 on 33 occasions. The channel’s factual output has delivered some particularly strong audiences in early 2012. Highlights include World’s Scariest Plane Landings (2.1m/7.6%), Nazi Titanic: Revealed (1.6m/6.3%), two-parter Winter Road Rescue (1.8m/6.9%) and Royal Marines Mission Afghanistan (series average 1.4m/4.7%).

About Dragonfly Film and Television Productions Ltd

Dragonfly Film and Television Productions Ltd is a UK independent production company and has been part of the Shine Group since 2007. Dragonfly has produced more than 200 hours of mainly factual television for various channels, including Channel 4, Five, the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery and Sky One. 


At Dragonfly, our aim is simple: to make television that's daring and different. This is reflected in our shows which are innovative, cutting edge and increasingly diverse. Programmes such as the BAFTA nominated series The Family, the BAFTA Award winning One Born Every Minute and The Hotel are renowned for their original fixed camera approach to observational film making; this brings a fresh insight and sensitivity to previously covered subject matter. Many of these shows have been sold, or re-made around the world, with One Born Every Minute currently being produced for Lifetime in the US, M6 in France and TV4 in Sweden.

To date, we've produced an incredible range of single documentaries, factual dramas and live events, working with some of the most talented people in the industry in the process.

About Group M

The primary role of GroupM Entertainment is to produce, finance and distribute entertainment properties for a wide range of international TV and digital markets. The company's primary business interests extend across all media platforms and a variety of genres, including entertainment, factual entertainment, factual and drama.

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