Time Commanders

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Time Commanders
Genre Technological game show
Created by Adam MacDonald
Presented by Eddie Mair (2003)
Richard Hammond (2005)
Gregg Wallace (2016)
Narrated by David McAlister (2003)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 27
Running time 45 minutes (2003, 2005)
60 minutes (2016–)
Production company(s) Lion TV
Original network BBC Two (2003, 2005)
BBC Four (2016–)
Picture format 16:9
Original release Original series:
4 September 2003 (2003-09-04) – 13 March 2005 (2005-03-13)
Revived series:
12 December 2016 (2016-12-12) – present
External links

Time Commanders is a series of programmes made by Lion TV and PlayGen for the BBC that ran for three series, the first two between 2003 to 2005 before returning for a third series in 2016. The programme was originally hosted by Eddie Mair and then by Richard Hammond and was originally broadcast on BBC Two, it featured a specially made game engine designed by The Creative Assembly to reenact historical battles. The 2016 series was presented by Gregg Wallace and broadcast on BBC Four. Like the previous two series, it uses game engines developed by The Creative Assembly.


In the first two series, team of four contestants would direct the forces on one side. The teams were unfamiliar with computer games, to make sure their gaming skills did not influence their success. In the 2016 revival, two teams of three controlled opposing factions (for example, one team would play as Carthage and the other as Rome).

After a brief introduction of the battle, including an overview of military units, terrain and available forces, the players had to develop a strategy and then deploy their forces. In the first two series, two of the players were selected as generals, who directed the battle and had access to a strategic map; in the 2016 revival, only one player was selected as the general. The other two players were designated lieutenants in the first two series, and captains in the 2016 revival. 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 2016 series there was a small skirmish conducted as a separate event to acquaint the players with the game mechanics and their units. In the 2016 series the teams also got strategic pauses where they could refine their strategies.

The game engine used was based on the Grand Strategy Game Rome: Total War, the game being released a year later. 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".[1] The televised programmes contained no reference to the origin of the software powering the 3D visuals, due to the BBC's rules against product placement; however 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 (It should also be noted that the game engine made use of Motion Capture fight and action performances provided by Chris Wolff[2] and Ronin Traynor[3]).

During each game, a pair of military specialists analysed the performance of the players and explained how the real historical battle unfolded. In the first two series Lynette Nusbacher, then Aryeh Nusbacher, appeared in every episode and was joined on a rotating basis by Mike Loades, Saul David, Mark Urban or Dr. Adrian Goldsworthy, the series' historical advisor. In the 2016 revival, Nusbacher and Loades fulfilled this role in all three episodes.

A tie-in book was written by Peter Harrison and published by Virgin Books 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.

Before she became an actress, Ruth Wilson appeared in the Battle of Pharsalus episode.


In July 2016, the BBC put out a call for applicants for a third series of the show.[4] On 21 November 2016, the BBC uploaded a trailer for the upcoming series on their YouTube channel.[5] The first episode aired on BBC Four on 12 December 2016 at 9:00pm.[6] Gregg Wallace presented the third series. The series makes use of a different game for each episode, Total War Rome 2: Emperor Edition, Napoleon Total War and Total War Attila.[7]

Series one (2003)[edit]

# Episode Airdate Faction Played Episode Result
1 Battle of the Trebia 4 September 2003 Carthage (vs Rome) Carthaginian victory
2 Battle of Watling Street 11 September 2003 Rome (vs Icenii and Other Britons) Roman defeat**
3 Battle of Bibracte 18 September 2003 Rome (vs Helvetii and Other Gauls) Roman victory
4 Battle of Mons Graupius 25 September 2003 Caledonians (vs Rome) Caledonian defeat
5 Battle of Tigranocerta 2 October 2003 Armenia (vs Rome) Armenian victory**
6 Battle of Pharsalus 9 October 2003 Pompeius (vs Julius Caesar) Pompeiian defeat
7 Battle of Cannae 16 October 2003 Carthage (vs Rome) Carthaginian defeat**
8 Battle of Raphia* 23 October 2003 Egypt (vs Seleucids) Egyptian victory
9 Battle of Qadesh 30 October 2003 Hittites (vs Egypt) Hittite defeat
10 Battle of Leuctra 6 November 2003 Thebes (vs Sparta) Theban victory
11 Battle of Adrianople 13 November 2003 Rome (vs Goths) Roman defeat
12 Battle of Telamon 20 November 2003 Gauls (vs Rome) Gallic defeat
13 Battle of Gaugamela 8 December 2003 Macedon (vs Persia) Macedonian victory
14 Battle of Chalons 15 December 2003 Huns (vs Rome and Goths) Hunnic defeat
15 Battle of Marathon 22 December 2003 Athens (vs Persia) Athenian defeat**
16 Battle of the Silarus 29 December 2003 Slaves (vs Rome) Slave victory**

* This battle was fought by a team of celebrities consisting of Kate Silverton and Al Murray as the Generals, and Raji James and Ricky Groves from Eastenders as the two lieutenants.
** Non-historic results

Series two (2005)[edit]

# Episode Airdate Faction Played Episode Result
1 Battle of the Teutoburg Forest 16 January 2005 Rome (vs Germans) Roman victory**
2 Battle of Stamford Bridge 23 January 2005 Saxon (vs Vikings) Saxon victory
3 Battle of the Hydaspes River 30 January 2005 Macedonians (vs Indians) Macedonian defeat**
4 Battle of Cynoscephalae 6 February 2005 Rome (vs Macedon) Roman victory
5 Battle of Dara 13 February 2005 Persia (vs Byzantium) Persian defeat
6 Battle of Troy 20 February 2005 Greeks (vs Trojans) Greek victory
7 Battle of Hastings 27 February 2005 Normans (vs Saxon) Norman defeat**
8 Battle of Sarmisegetusa 13 March 2005 Rome (vs Dacia) Roman victory

** Non-historic results

Series three (2016)[edit]

# Episode Airdate Factions Played Episode Result
1 Battle of Zama 12 December 2016 Carthage vs Rome[8] Roman victory, both sides' commanders perished**
2 Battle of Waterloo 19 December 2016 Seventh Coalition vs France[9] Allied victory, Napoleon perished**
3 Battle of Chalons 27 December 2016 Huns vs Rome[10] Hun victory**, two of three Roman commanders perished**

Note that the format changed for series three to include two teams of three each fighting against each other, with each team controlling each faction.
** Non-historic results

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mike Brunton, Interview, computerandvideogames.com, 25 May 2006 (http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=140495)
  2. ^ "Action Incorporated - Motion Capture fight & action performance". Action Incorporated - Motion Capture fight & action performance. Retrieved 2017-01-06. 
  3. ^ "RONIN TRAYNOR - ACTION CO-ORDINATOR / SWORDMASTER / TEACHER / ACTION PERFORMER / ARMOURER". www.ronintraynor.com. Retrieved 2017-01-06. 
  4. ^ Website, bbc.co.uk, 25 July 2016 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/takepart/time_commanders)
  5. ^ Website, youtube.com, 21 November 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBZclNfu2kE)
  6. ^ Website, bbc.co.uk, 21 November 2016 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2016/50/time-commanders?ns_mchannel=YT&ns_source=bbc_four&ns_linkname=description_link)
  7. ^ https://www.totalwar.com/time-commanders/
  8. ^ Website bbc.co.uk S3E1 page (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b084xym1)
  9. ^ Website bbc.co.uk S3E2 page (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0864zhl)
  10. ^ Website bbc.co.uk S3E3 page (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08653wx)
  • All episode airdates taken from IMDB

External links[edit]