Tonight, BBC is releasing its first-ever “interactive episode” as part of BBC Three’s “Our World War” drama series. “High Wood,” named after the area soldiers fought at in the July 1916 Battle of the Somme, puts viewers in the position of Corporal Arthur Foulkes as they complete his (their) mission in the virtual, historical battle.
Written by Marco Crivellari, “High Wood” will present Foulkes’ choices in the form of on-screen buttons, letting viewers determine the episode’s plot. Then, viewers will receive feedback at the end of each of the episode’s three parts, telling them how their choices compared to those most likely made by soldiers in 1916, how expert their battle tactics were, and how well their morale and leadership efforts turned out.
BBC Three will also offer “iWonder guides” as post-show footage. These include a virtual tour from John Rhys-Davies about WWI inspiration in “Lord of the Rings” as well as a tour from Greg James of Radio 1, who will explore underage soldiers’ participation in WWI.
Ultimately, the aim of this episode is an educational one.
“We commissioned this interactive episode because we saw a unique opportunity to reach younger audiences with an innovation that turns viewers into participants,” explained Chris Sizemore, executive editor of BBC iWonder, in a statement. “Can people today gain a greater degree of empathy for the soldiers of World War One by stepping into their shoes?”
Digital video is unique in being able to help answer that question. While a lot of attention is spent on the potential for digital video to disrupt traditional TV, by and large the “premium programming” available on the web is just television delivered through a different pipe. It’s interesting to see BBC take advantage of the interactive capabilities of the web to build an episode of television that engages viewers beyond what’s capable on television.
Commissioned and produced by BBC Learning, “High Wood” will attempt to educate viewers tonight on BBC’s Our World War website. The episode was directed by Scott Rawsthorne and Jon Shaikh.