Time Commanders

Time Commanders

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Time Commanders was a series of programmes made by Lion TV and PlayGen for BBC Two
BBC Two is the second television channel operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tending towards more 'highbrow' programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio...

 that ran for two seasons from 2003 to 2005. The programmes, originally hosted by Eddie Mair
Eddie Mair
Eddie Mair is a British BBC radio and television presenter. He presents BBC Radio 4's daily news magazine PM also the Radio 4 Saturday only iPM and the BBC's NewsPod, is an occasional presenter of Newsnight, the stand-in presenter for Any Questions replacing the late Nick Clarke, and was the...

 and more recently by Richard Hammond
Richard Hammond
Richard Mark Hammond is an English broadcaster, writer, and journalist most noted for co-hosting car programme Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson and James May, as well as presenting Brainiac: Science Abuse on Sky 1.-Early life:...

, featured a specially made game engine
Game engine
A game engine is a system designed for the creation and development of video games. There are many game engines that are designed to work on video game consoles and personal computers...

 to reenact historical battles. A team of four contestants would direct the forces on one side. The teams were unfamiliar with computer games, to make sure their gaming skills do not influence their success.

After a brief introduction of the battle, including an overview of military units, terrain and available forces, the players had to develop a strategy
Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

 and then deploy their forces. Two of the players were selected as general
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

s, who will direct the battle and have access to a strategic map. The other two players were designated lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

s in the first series, and captains in the second. The units were indirectly controlled by the lieutenants, who issued commands to programme assistants, who in turn used the game interface to control the units. Troop deployment and battle followed, although in the second series there was a small skirmish conducted as a separate event, to acquaint the players with the game mechanics and their units. In the second series the team also got strategic pauses where they could refine their strategies.

Contrary to popular belief, this engine was in fact not the games engine of the real-time strategy game Rome: Total War
Rome: Total War
Rome: Total War is a PC strategy game developed by The Creative Assembly and released on by Activision...

, since the game was only released a year later. Nonetheless, Rome: Total War designer and writer Mike Brunton said, "Time Commanders did use Rome code pretty much 'as is', with tweaks for different troop types and camera controls". The series as televised contained no reference to the origin of the software powering the 3D visuals. This was due to the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

's rules against product placement
Product placement
Product placement, or embedded marketing, is a form of advertisement, where branded goods or services are placed in a context usually devoid of ads, such as movies, music videos, the story line of television shows, or news programs. The product placement is often not disclosed at the time that the...

 (Rome: Total War makers The Creative Assembly were named in the credits of the show with a specific mention of them providing the Game Engine).

During each game, a pair of military specialists analysed the performance of the players and explained how the real historical battle unfolded. Dr. Aryeh Nusbacher
Aryeh Nusbacher
Lynette Nusbacher is a military historian and strategist appointed Senior Lecturer in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, UK...

 of Sandhurst, who appeared in every episode, was joined on a rotating basis by Mike Loades
Mike Loades
Mike Loades is a British author, presenter, action arranger, director, and military expert.Loades has appeared as a primary presenter or supporting expert in many documentaries covering historical weapons. Behind the scenes, he has worked as an action arranger in over 100 screen productions...

, Saul David
Saul David
Julian Saul David, known popularly as Saul David, was born in 1966 in Monmouth, Wales and is an academic military historian and broadcaster. He is best known for his work on the Indian Mutiny and the Anglo-Zulu War, as well as for presenting and appearing in documentaries on British television...

, Mark Urban
Mark Urban
Mark Urban is a British journalist, author, broadcaster and orientalist, and is currently the Diplomatic Editor for BBC Two's Newsnight.-Education and early career:...

 or Dr. Adrian Goldsworthy
Adrian Goldsworthy
Adrian Keith Goldsworthy is a British historian and author who specialises in ancient Roman history.-Biography:Goldsworthy attended Westbourne School, Penarth...

, the series' historical advisor. A tie-in book was written by Peter Harrison
Peter Harrison
Peter Harrison was a colonial American architect who was born in York, England and emigrated to Rhode Island in 1740. Peter Harrison and his brother, Joseph Harrison, came to the American colonies and established themselves as merchants and captains of their own "vessels." Peter Harrison returned...

 and published by Virgin Books
Virgin Books
Virgin Books is a United Kingdom book publisher 90% owned by the publishing group Random House, and 10% owned by Virgin Enterprises, the company originally set up by Richard Branson as a record company.-History:...

 in 2004, called Time Commanders: Great Battles of the Ancient World. It covered the 16 battles of the first series, along with details of all the contestants in each of the teams, which battle and which army they each played and whether they won or lost the battle they had been given.

Series one

# Episode Airdate Faction Played Episode Result
1 Battle of the Trebia
Battle of the Trebia
The Battle of the Trebia was the first major battle of the Second Punic War, fought between the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and the Roman Republic in December of 218 BC, on or around the winter solstice...

4 September 2003 Carthage (vs Rome) Carthaginian victory
2 Battle of Watling Street
Battle of Watling Street
The Battle of Watling Street took place in Roman-occupied Britain in AD 60 or 61 between an alliance of indigenous British peoples led by Boudica and a Roman army led by Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. Although outnumbered, the Romans decisively defeated the allied tribes, inflicting heavy losses on them...

11 September 2003 Rome (vs Icenii and Other Britons) Roman defeat**
3 Battle of Bibracte
Battle of Bibracte
The Battle of Bibracte was fought between the Helvetii and six Roman legions, under the command of Gaius Julius Caesar. It was the second major battle of the Gallic Wars....

18 September 2003 Rome (vs Helvetii and Other Gauls) Roman victory
4 Battle of Mons Graupius
Battle of Mons Graupius
According to Tacitus, the Battle of Mons Graupius took place in AD 83 or, less probably, 84. Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman governor and Tacitus' father-in-law, had sent his fleet ahead to panic the Caledonians, and, with light infantry reinforced with British auxiliaries, reached the site,...

25 September 2003 Caledonians (vs Rome) Caledonian defeat
5 Battle of Tigranocerta
Battle of Tigranocerta
The Battle of Tigranocerta was fought on October 6, 69 BC between the forces of the Roman Republic and the army of the Kingdom of Armenia led by King Tigranes the Great. The Roman force was led by Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus, and Tigranes was defeated...

2 October 2003 Armenia (vs Rome) Armenian victory**
6 Battle of Pharsalus
Battle of Pharsalus
The Battle of Pharsalus was a decisive battle of Caesar's Civil War. On 9 August 48 BC at Pharsalus in central Greece, Gaius Julius Caesar and his allies formed up opposite the army of the republic under the command of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus...

9 October 2003 Pompeius (vs Julius Caesar) Pompeiian defeat
7 Battle of Cannae
Battle of Cannae
The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War, which took place on August 2, 216 BC near the town of Cannae in Apulia in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage under Hannibal decisively defeated a numerically superior army of the Roman Republic under command of the consuls Lucius...

16 October 2003 Carthage (vs Rome) Carthaginian defeat**
8 Battle of Raphia
Battle of Raphia
The Battle of Raphia, also known as the Battle of Gaza, was a battle fought on 22 June 217 BC near modern Rafah between the forces of Ptolemy IV Philopator, king of Egypt and Antiochus III the Great of the Seleucid kingdom during the Syrian Wars...

23 October 2003 Egypt (vs Seleucids) Egyptian victory
9 Battle of Qadesh  30 October 2003 Hittites (vs Egypt) Hittite defeat
10 Battle of Leuctra
Battle of Leuctra
The Battle of Leuctra was a battle fought on July 6, 371 BC, between the Boeotians led by Thebans and the Spartans along with their allies amidst the post-Corinthian War conflict. The battle took place in the neighbourhood of Leuctra, a village in Boeotia in the territory of Thespiae...

6 November 2003 Thebes (vs Sparta) Theban victory
11 Battle of Adrianople
Battle of Adrianople
The Battle of Adrianople , sometimes known as the Battle of Hadrianopolis, was fought between a Roman army led by the Roman Emperor Valens and Gothic rebels led by Fritigern...

13 November 2003 Rome (vs Goths) Roman defeat
12 Battle of Telamon
Battle of Telamon
The Battle of Telamon was fought between the Roman Republic and an alliance of Gauls in 225 BC. The Romans, led by the consuls Gaius Atilius Regulus and Lucius Aemilius Papus, defeated the Gauls, thus extending their influence over northern Italy....

20 November 2003 Gauls (vs Rome) Gallic defeat
13 Battle of Gaugamela
Battle of Gaugamela
The Battle of Gaugamela took place in 331 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. The battle, which is also called the Battle of Arbela, resulted in a massive victory for the ancient Macedonians and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire.-Location:Darius chose a flat, open plain...

8 December 2003 Macedon (vs Persia) Macedonian victory
14 Battle of Chalons
Battle of Chalons
The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains , also called the Battle of Châlons sur Marne, took place in AD 451 between a coalition led by the Visigothic king Theodoric I and the Roman general Flavius Aëtius, against the Huns and their allies commanded by their leader Attila...

15 December 2003 Huns (vs Rome and Goths) Hunnic defeat
15 Battle of Marathon
Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate...

22 December 2003 Athens (vs Persia) Athenian defeat**
16 Battle of the Silarus
Third Servile War
The Third Servile War , also called the Gladiator War and the War of Spartacus by Plutarch, was the last of a series of unrelated and unsuccessful slave rebellions against the Roman Republic, known collectively as the Roman Servile Wars...

29 December 2003 Slaves (vs Rome) Slave victory**

* This battle was fought by a team of celebrities consisting of Kate Silverton
Kate Silverton
Kate Silverton is an English journalist, currently employed by the BBC.- Early life and education :Silverton was born in Essex, England, the daughter of English parents; Terry Silverton, a black-cab driver turned registered hypnotherapist and Patricia Silverton, who now heads her daughter's...

 and Al Murray
Al Murray
Alastair James Hay "Al" Murray , is a British comedian best known for his stand-up persona, The Pub Landlord, a stereotypical xenophobic public house licensee. In 2003, he was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy...

 as the Generals, and Raji James
Raji James
Rajesh Jhanji better known by his stage name Little Raji James That Used To Be In Eastenders But Ruined It, is a British Indian actor, club night promotor and podcast co-host, best known for his role as Ash Ferreira in EastEnders, he also played Abdul Khan in the 1999 British Film East Is East...

 and Ricky Glover from Eastenders as the two lieutenants.

** Non-historic result

Series two

# Episode Airdate Faction Played Episode Result
1 Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest took place in 9 CE, when an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius of the Cherusci ambushed and decisively destroyed three Roman legions, along with their auxiliaries, led by Publius Quinctilius Varus.Despite numerous successful campaigns and raids by the...

16 January 2005 Rome (vs Germans) Roman victory**
2 Battle of Stamford Bridge
Battle of Stamford Bridge
The Battle of Stamford Bridge took place at the village of Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire in England on 25 September 1066, between an English army under King Harold Godwinson and an invading Norwegian force led by King Harald Hardrada of Norway and the English king's brother Tostig...

23 January 2005 England (vs Vikings) English victory
3 Battle of the Hydaspes River
Battle of the Hydaspes River
The Battle of the Hydaspes River was fought by Alexander the Great in 326 BC against King Porus of the Hindu Paurava kingdom on the banks of the Hydaspes River in the Punjab near Bhera in what is now modern-day Pakistan...

30 January 2005 Macedonians (vs Indians) Macedonian defeat**
4 Battle of Cynoscephalae
Battle of Cynoscephalae
The Battle of Cynoscephalae was an encounter battle fought in Thessaly in 197 BC between the Roman army, led by Titus Quinctius Flamininus, and the Antigonid dynasty of Macedon, led by Philip V.- Prelude :...

6 February 2005 Rome (vs Macedon) Roman victory
5 Battle of Dara
Battle of Dara
The Battle of Dara was fought between the Sassanids and the Byzantine Empire in 530. It was one of the battles of the Iberian War.- Background :...

13 February 2005 Persia (vs Byzantium) Persian defeat
6 Battle of Troy  20 February 2005 Greeks (vs Trojans) Greek victory
7 Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

27 February 2005 Normans (vs England) Norman defeat**
8 Battle of Sarmisegetusa
Battle of Sarmisegetusa
The Battle of Sarmisegetusa was a siege of Sarmizegetusa, the capital of Dacia, fought in 106 between the army of the Roman Emperor Trajan, and the Dacians led by King Decebalus.-Background:...

13 March 2005 Rome (vs Dacia) Roman victory