HIDDEN WALES REVIEW

Documentary series such as HIDDEN WALES are a staple of the BBC’s schedule. Whether you watch them or not, they are as intrinsically part of the BBC’s makeup as dramas and soaps.

In the last few years there has been a boom in making history documentaries that, rather than simply explaining a particular part of history to us, demonstrate something unknown or hidden that can only be seen through the use of technology.

HIDDEN WALES BBC4

Aerial photography is one of the most common and previous BBC produced series such as The Flying Archaeologist has utilised this type of technology to their advantage. Similarly, the BBC’s excellent Ancient Invisible Cities with Dr Michael Scott and its sister series Italy's Invisible Cities make use of CGI and reconstruction techniques to help bring the past to life.

Will Millard’s series Hidden Wales does all these things and it is the reason that it stands out. Millard fully embraces the newer form of TV documentary making and makes it his own. Rather than simply telling the audience about the history of Wales or its hidden depths, he invites them on an adventure to explore the subject.

It gives the audience a feeling of agency; that they too can be a part of the journey even though they aren’t physically taking part in it.

This much more open approach to presenting ensures that the discontent between the audience and what they are seeing on screen is reduced. We are given a truly dynamic and inventive way of engaging with television that allows the audience to truly feel part of the journey.

In a media marketplace which prides innovation, for the BBC this can only be a good thing. As technology advances and the public desire media to be more and more accessible, to survive documentary formats should adapt and attempt to become more open to the public.

Millard also embraces a cooler and breezier style of presenting as compared to other presents of similar programmes. Whilst this annoys some viewers who prefer a more traditional approach to the craft, it does allow the audience to feel more connected with the person who is delivering the information to them.

Rather than simply feeling as if they are being lectured to they feel like they are fully engaging with the documentary at hand – in other words, they aren’t being talked down to, they are simply being properly informed.

Millard’s presenting style combined with the documentaries’ embrace of new technology ensure that it stands out. It utilises techniques that are becoming more common place in documentary making and ones that should be embraced – by showing off the beauty and mystery of Wales’ past in a way that the audience will be able to connect to easily means that they’ll not only be more likely to watch the rest of the series but to try other documentaries that they might not have done before.

Inclusivity is a great part of modern television and its good to see it being fully embraced by the BBC.

- Watched on BBC Four. 26/11/2018

Will Barber Taylor

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