Castles in the Sky (film)

Castles in the Sky is a British fact-based television drama first broadcast on BBC Two on 4 September 2014. The movie shows Robert Watson-Watt and other British scientists' struggle to invent radar in the years leading to World War II.

Castles in the Sky
Castles in the Sky BBC.jpg
DVD cover art
  • Factual
  • Drama
Written byIan Kershaw
Directed byGillies MacKinnon
StarringEddie Izzard
Composer(s)Mark Russell
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Simon Wheeler
CinematographyAlasdair Walker
Production company(s)
Original network
Original release4 September 2014 (2014-09-04)



Castles in the Sky was commissioned by Janice Hadlow for BBC Two and Kim Shillinglaw, head commissioner for science and natural history.[1] It is produced by Simon Wheeler for Hero Film and Television with Arabella Page Croft and Kieran Parker as co-producers for Black Camel Pictures.[1] The director is Gillies MacKinnon and the writer is Ian Kershaw, who has previously worked on Shameless.[1][2][3] Castles in the Sky is produced with Open University, BBC Two, BBC Scotland, BBC Worldwide and Creative Scotland with Glasgow Film Office, Robert Watson Watt Trust and Brechin Civic Trust.[1]

Filming took place in various locations on Scotland's east coast; on Dunbar Beach and Hedderwick Sands in East Lothian, Newbattle Abbey and Arniston House in Midlothian, Gosford House in Longniddry, and in Edinburgh.[4] Mark Russell composed the musical score, whilst the costume designer was Gill Horn.

Producer Wheeler said that he hoped the film would illuminate the "sex appeal" of science. He said, "The time is right for a contemporary approach to this rich and under-reported vein of British history—it's not like other war stories—if anything it's more akin to a combination of The Social Network and Chariots of Fire than The Dambusters or Reach for the Sky."[4]


The film was previewed at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June 2014. Variety took the view that there were "many ways in which 'Castles in the Sky' adheres timidly to biopic convention...from Mark Russell’s sugary score to Gill Horn’s elegant but unworn costumes. Watson-Watt may stress the importance of 'free thinkers, rule-breakers and men without ties,' but this tweedy portrait never undoes its top button."[5] Andrew Pulver in The Guardian said that the film "has been framed as a rousing patriotic story, with a side-order of bash-the-establishment", having the humble Scot Watson-Watt and his team pitted against snobbish upper-crust figures: "to suit the we're-all-in-this-together mood, Watson-Watt's team are carefully pan-British, with Welsh and Yorkshire scientists in there too."[6]

After the television broadcast, writing in The Daily Telegraph, Jake Wallis Simons said of the film, "The problem was that this was a story in which nothing very dramatic happened. A moment in history, however significant, doesn’t automatically make a compelling piece of television." He added, "Izzard did his best, but neither story nor script worked in his favour.." concluding: "Overall, it all felt a bit worthy. This was history that everybody should know, but the erection of a statue might have done the job just as well."[7]


  1. ^ a b c d "BBC Two and BBC Four announce raft of new science commissions". BBC. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  2. ^ Kemp, Stuart (27 November 2013). "Eddie Izzard to Star in BBC Science Drama". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  3. ^ Chapman, Stephen (29 November 2013). "Eddie Izzard stars in new Kershaw drama Castles in the Sky for BBC Two". Prolific North. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  4. ^ a b Ritchie, Gayle (4 September 2015). "Eddie Izzard's Scots inventor builds Castles In The Sky and helps defeat Nazis". The Courier. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  5. ^ Lodge, Guy, "Film Review: ‘Castles in the Sky’", Variety, 25 June 2014.
  6. ^ "Castles in the Sky: Edinburgh 2014 first look review – Eddie Izzard very likable as wartime inventor of radar", The Guardian, 23 June 2014.
  7. ^ Simons, Jake Wallis (5 September 2014). "Castles in the Sky: BBC Two review - a bit worthy". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 September 2014.

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