Description: It began with a weapon created by scientists that threatened to destroy the world. But then a group of men who were convinced they control the new danger began to gain influence in America. They would manipulate terror.
To do so, they would use the methods of science. Pandora’s Box was a six part 1992 BBC documentary television series written and produced by Adam Curtis, which examines the consequences of political and technocratic rationalism.
Curtis’ later The Century of the Self had a similar theme. The title sequence made extensive use of clips from the short film Design for Dreaming, as well as other similar archive footage.
Episode 1: The Engineer’s Plot. The revolutionaries who toppled the Tsar in 1917 thought science held the key to their new world. In fact, it ended up creating a bewildering world for millions of Soviet people. In this light-hearted investigation, one industrial planner tells how she decided the people wanted platform shoes, only to discover that they had gone out of fashion by the time that the factory to manufacture them had been built.
Episode 2: To The Brink of Eternity. Focusing on the men of the Cold War on whom Dr Strangelove was based. These were people who believed that the world could be controlled by the scientific manipulation of fear – mathematical geniuses employed by the American Rand Corporation. In the end, their visions were the stuff of science fiction fantasy.
Episode 3: The League of Gentlemen. Thirty years ago, a group of economists managed to convince British politicians that they had foolproof technical means to make Britain great again. Pandora’s Box tells the saga of how their experiments have led the country deeper into economic decline, and asks – is their game finally up?
Episode 4: Goodbye Mrs Ant. A modern fable about science and society, focusing on our attitude to nature. Should we let scientists be the prime movers of social or political change when, for instance, DDT made post-war heroes of American scientists only to be put on trial by other scientists in 1968? What kind of in-fighting goes on between rival camps before one scientific truth emerges, and when it does emerge, just how true is it?
Episode 5: Black Power. A look at how former Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah set Africa ablaze with his vision of a new industrial and scientific age. At the heart of his dream was to be the huge Volta dam, generating enough power to transform West Africa into an advanced utopia. But as his grand experiment took shape, it brought with it dangerous forces Nkrumah couldn’t control, and he slowly watched his metropolis of science sink into corruption and debt.
Episode 6: A is For Atom. An insight into the history of nuclear power. In the 1950s scientists and politicians thought they could create a different world with a limitless source of nuclear energy. But things began to go wrong. Scientists in America and the Soviet Union were duped into building dozens of potentially dangerous plants. Then came the disasters of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl which changed views on the safety of this new technology.
Keywords: Pandora’s Box