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NOVA: Darwin’s Darkest Hour

Airs Tuesday, October 6 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: This two-hour scripted drama presents the remarkable story behind the birth of Darwin’s radically controversial theory of evolution and reveals his deeply personal crisis: whether to publish his earthshaking ideas or to keep quiet to avoid potential backlash from the church. Pictured: Charles (Henry Ian Cusick) walks with Emma (Frances O’Connor), discussing his theory of natural selection.

Darwin's Predictions

Over 150 years later, science continues to confirm most of Darwin's conjectures.

Explore Darwin's most prophetic ideas.

NOVA and National Geographic Television present the extraordinary human drama that led to the birth of the most influential scientific theory of all time. Acclaimed screenwriter John Goldsmith (“David Copperfield,” “Victoria and Albert”) brings to life Charles Darwin’s greatest personal crisis: the anguishing decision over whether to “go public” with his theory of evolution. Darwin, portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick (“Lost”), spent years refining his ideas and penning his seminal book, "On the Origin of Species." Daunted by looming conflict with the orthodox religious values of his day, he resisted publishing — until a letter from naturalist Alfred Wallace forced his hand.

Explore the Galapagos

With this multimedia map, see the islands as they are today and learn how they inspired Darwin.

In 1858, Darwin learned that Wallace was on the brink of publishing ideas similar to his own. In a sickened panic, Darwin grasped his dilemma: To delay publishing any longer would be to condemn all of his work to obscurity — his voyage on the Beagle, his adventures in the Andes, the gauchos and bizarre fossils of Patagonia, the finches and giant tortoises of the Galapagos. But to come forward with his ideas risked the fury of the church and perhaps a rift with his own devoted wife, Emma, portrayed by Frances O’Connor (“Mansfield Park,” "The Importance of Being Earnest," Steven Spielberg’s "Artificial Intelligence"), who clung to a devout, orthodox view of creation. This moving drama about the birth of a great idea is seen through the inspiration and personal sufferings of its brilliant originator.

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