World on Fire: Series 1 (2019)


Series 1
World on Fire

Critics Consensus

Though at times more style than substance, World on Fire's layered storytelling never steps on itself, leaving room for its excellent ensemble and gorgeous set-pieces to fill in any narrative gaps.

84%

TOMATOMETER

Critic Ratings: 31

53%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 43

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Episodes

Air date: Sep 29, 2019

As the threat of the Nazi regime looms large over Europe, translator Harry Chase vows to help his Polish lover Kasia flee Warsaw, but how will he explain this to his sweetheart Lois, waiting for him at home in Manchester? Meanwhile, American journalist and broadcaster Nancy Campbell is at the Polish-German border, making a grisly discovery. In Paris, surgeon Webster O'Connor finds the distant threat of war on his doorstep as he falls for French-African jazz musician Albert Fallou, who has been beaten up by the Action Francaise mob.

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Air date: Oct 6, 2019

In devastated Warsaw, Kasia makes plans to flee with grief-stricken mother Maria but gets caught in a resistance cell's attack on German soldiers. Harry returns to Manchester. When he finally plucks up the courage to tell Lois the truth about Warsaw, she disarms him by declaring her love. Harry then travels to London where he's dismissed from the diplomatic services because of his conduct in Warsaw. Tom shocks Douglas by announcing he is now a conscientious objector, while in Berlin Nancy is frustrated by the growing power of the censor. In Paris, Webster and Albert are deeply in love, but their joy is overshadowed by the growing threat of prejudice they face.

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After enlisting in the navy, Tom finds himself on board the HMS Exeter in pursuit of the notorious Graf Spee, a German pocket battleship which has been picking off British merchant ships for months. A huge naval battle ensues, and Tom's moral compass is reset as he watches the carnage and death around him. As Tom fights for his life, Harry and Lois face a battle of their own. Harry is now a 2nd lieutenant, and is in France with the BEF, supervising the digging of foxholes and tank traps with his sergeant Stan, and trying to win the respect of his unit. When Lois arrives at the base camp to perform with ENSA, Harry's two worlds collide. Lois is determined to ignore him and finds comfort in the arms of another soldier, Joe, who happens to belong to Harry's unit, and there's another shock in store for Harry when he later disciplines Joe...

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The phoney war is over. Harry and his unit are fighting for their lives in the town of Louvain, where German troops far outnumber those of the Allied forces. Harry is desperate to prove himself as a leader, but when the Nazis close in, Harry freezes. Can he regain the respect of his men? On the road to refuge Grzegorz and Konrad are woken by a German soldier. Should they fight or escape? Meanwhile, back in Warsaw, Kasia and Tomas's resistance activity has horrific consequences as the Germans swiftly retaliate. In Paris, Webster is shocked to learn more of the rise of anti-Semitism in the city, when a Jewish couple come seeking his help. Despite hospital policy, Henriette persuades him too look after them, revealing that she too is Jewish. Secrets are also uncovered in Manchester, when Douglas guesses that Lois is hiding her pregnancy. Tom's return brings momentary relief - until he confesses that he plans to desert the Navy.

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As thousands flee Nazi-occupied Belgium, Harry, Stan and the rest of their unit take the last route out of France - the road to Dunkirk. When the boys finally make it to a field hospital, they find an overwhelmed Webster O'Connor dealing with an endless number of injured soldiers and civilians. Having stumbled across an ambulance of shell-shocked, traumatised troops (including Senegalese soldiers Demba and Ibrahim), Harry is faced with a dilemma - should he stay with the men or save himself? In Warsaw, Kasia's campaign of violence and murder against German soldiers has become routine; she's worlds away from the young, carefree woman she used to be. Her part in the emerging Polish Resistance is firmly established. In Manchester, Lois and Connie are performing with Ensa at a northern airbase. They meet Flight Lieutenant Vernon Hunter who is immediately drawn to Lois, charmed by her candour and humour.

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June 1940. The Nazis have taken Paris with not a bullet fired. Webster and Albert's life in the city they love will never be the same again. In Berlin, Nancy finds herself once again at the centre of the Rosslers' increasingly desperate situation as both Mr and Mrs Rossler are arrested for neglecting their patriotic duties. Back in Manchester, Harry returns home with another companion, Demba, one of the heroic Sengalese troops who stayed by Harry's side at Dunkirk. And in Warsaw, Kasia's murderous routine continues in earnest. As she and Tomasz take ever-greater risks in targeting the Germans, the net closes in on them.

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Harry is about to head out on his first mission as a Special Operations Executive and is in shock when Major Taylor tells him that he must go to Poland to intercept a resistance group who have been identified and targeted by the Nazis.

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World on Fire: Series 1 Photos

Tv Season Info

Cast & Crew

Jonah Hauer-King
Harry Chase
Peter Bowker
Writer

Critic Reviews for World on Fire Series 1

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (17)

If what you want is to be engaged -- to be sucked into a story completely, enveloped by another time and place -- then [World on Fire] might be just the ticket.

Apr 8, 2020 | Full Review…

"World on Fire" offers a more intimate exploration of wartime life than is typically portrayed in World War II dramas.

Apr 6, 2020 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

The world is spinning out of control in "World on Fire," and, at moments, so are the many story lines.

Apr 2, 2020 | Full Review…

It's unwise to judge on one episode, but World On Fire wears its ambition confidently. It looks expensive and beautiful, with its overcoats and hats and steam trains.

Nov 18, 2019 | Full Review…

It's deeply haunting. It's a remarkable form of storytelling [too]; from different sides, different locations, people from different classes [and] sexualities.

Jul 15, 2020 | Full Review…

World on Fire is, at times, unbelievably cheesy - but the characters' broad strokes make for high-drama entry points into the true horrors of the historical narrative.

May 6, 2020 | Full Review…

World on Fire offers a rational and intriguing orientation toward titanic historical events, which, one hopes, will only encourage the viewer to look more searchingly into the upheavals of the past century.

Aug 3, 2020 | Full Review…

A shame, really, because the build-up to World War II and the war itself are usually fertile grounds for excellent drama. This one doesn't hold up, sorry to say.

Apr 30, 2020 | Full Review…

Sean Bean has made a career out of playing noble leaders like Boromir in Lord of the Rings. But he's wonderful here as a working-class pacifist whose mind World War I shattered.

Apr 8, 2020 | Full Review…

Certainly a character-driven drama, but those characters, and the fine performances that shape them, are more than enough to work through the disjointed first episode and see where their lives go as World War II grows in scope and danger.

Apr 7, 2020 | Full Review…

It's kind of cool to have this sort of story back on TV, an old-school format that follows disparate characters in desperate times.

Apr 6, 2020 | Full Review…

The ambitious seven-part Masterpiece series World on Fire covers a lot of ground in its first season, but it still can't help feeling like every World War II drama you've ever seen.

Apr 3, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for World on Fire: Series 1

  • May 18, 2021
    First episode started ok, but then quickly got worse like most BBC productions was hampered by an unrealistic modern ‘diversity' agenda instead of telling a compelling story.
  • Jan 03, 2021
    Started really well, but the telltale signs of BBC scriptwriters appear stronger and stronger as you progress. The narrative of the outbreak of World War Two soon becomes just an opportunity to make clumsy and two-dimensional points about race, sexuality and equality. All of which are important, but I'm more interested in just a good story, please. The dialogue of the British soldiers, and their scenes generally, is amateurish. Really disappointing.
  • Dec 17, 2020
    Deception of beginning of WWII in the show is total joke. They should have hired some history expert to make it more realistic. But what do you expect from UK - they betrayed together with France Poland in 1939 thus there is zero reason for them to be truthful about how it went in 1939. Most scenes would make sense if they were a bit re-arranged. For example, chase of Kasia by Germans in Warsaw could have occurred *after* surrender of the city, not before. Warsaw surrendered as well as many other defensive positions due to the fact allies were not coming to help - thus there was no sense of fighting. Officers may have committed suicide to die with honor but no one wanted to sacrifice regular soldiers or civilians for lost cause.
  • Jul 17, 2020
    So bad that I was hoping the Germans would win just so the show would end.
  • May 21, 2020
    Given the topic (life as it entered WWII) there was so much potential but they ended up with half-baked story lines. Really? A Polish young man could walk from Warsaw through German lines, across Germany, through German lines, through British lines to then walk onto the beach of Dunkirk. This and other stray story lines made up this high budget romp.
  • May 19, 2020
    I hate Nazis! How did the world let them get so far?
  • May 14, 2020
    Great action filled soap opera set to ww2
  • May 11, 2020
    It seems like it's purpose is to impose present day sensibilities on the real world of the 1940's, rather than tell an interesting story about World War II from a different perspective.
  • May 04, 2020
    Moves much too slowly. Many, though not all, of the main characters (Harry Chase, Tom Bennett, Lois Bennett, Douglas Bennett, Stan Raddings), sound inaudible as if they are mumbling, and I have never experienced this in decades of watching British television, having heard every class accent...Not enough movement in the story line either.
  • May 04, 2020
    Love watching it every Sunday!

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