Time Commanders

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Time Commanders
Genre Technological game show
Created by Adam MacDonald
Presented by Eddie Mair (2003–04)
Richard Hammond (2005)
Gregg Wallace (2016)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 27
Running time 45–60 minutes
Production company(s) Lion Television
Distributor All3Media
Original network BBC Two (2003–05)
BBC Four (2016)
Picture format 16:9
Original release 4 September 2003 (2003-09-04) – 27 December 2016 (2016-12-27)
Related shows Decisive Battles
External links

Time Commanders is a technological game show that originally aired on BBC Two from 4 September 2003 to 13 March 2005 with Eddie Mair hosting the first series and Richard Hammond hosting the second series. It returned for a 3-part special on BBC Four from 12 to 27 December 2016 with Gregg Wallace as host.


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 both the 2005 and 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.

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 Aryeh Nusbacher, later becoming Lynette 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.


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". 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).

Related media[edit]

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.


Series Start date End date Episodes
1 4 September 2003[1] 26 March 2004[2] 16
2 16 January 2005[3] 13 March 2005[4] 8
3 12 December 2016[5] 27 December 2016[6] 3[6]


External links[edit]