World on Fire is finally back for a second season!
Telling “the story of World War II through the eyes of ordinary people whose lives have been thrown into chaos,” the return of World on Fire welcomes back a number of original cast members and introduces several newcomers.
Season 2 premieres in the UK at 9pm on Sunday 16 July, airing on BBC One and streaming on BBC iPlayer.
World on Fire returns in the US later in 2023 at 9/8c on Sunday 15 October on Masterpiece on PBS.
Don’t worry if you can’t remember what happened previously, as American viewers can catch up on Amazon Prime’s Masterpiece channel with this free 7-day trial!
It’s been a long wait for the show to come back; something creator and writer Peter Bowker discusses here.
“In November 2019 – the week of the final episode of World on Fire – the BBC asked me about plans for a second series,” he recalled.
“The intention was to begin immediately and to have Series 2 ready to go out in early 2021. Then Covid happened. And happened again.
“And I found myself writing a drama about a global event where people became unmoored from what they understood to be normal life while living through a global event where people . . . well, you get the idea.”
The delays had a big effect on the next chapter of World on Fire, but not entirely negatively.
“These circumstances influenced its creation in many ways, not least by bringing to the team two brilliant writers – Matt Jones and Rachel Bennette – who ran with my original vision and created half of this new series with invention and heart and a ridiculous dedication,” explains Bowker.
“And that original vision – to tell personal stories of life during warfare from multiple national perspectives – has, I hope been both honoured and expanded.”
Resuming the story in 1941, the new season finds RAF pilots sent to destroy German bombers prowling the skies above Manchester, with rescue operations underway on the streets below, as the true reality of war arrives in Britain.
“Back in England in late 1940 the war had come home in the form of soldiers returning from Europe, refugees fleeing warfare and persecution, and bombs being dropped by the Luftwaffe as the attacks on London extended to the great industrial conurbations including Manchester and Liverpool.”
Bowker says: “It is in Manchester that we begin to tell the story of the murkier world of espionage as the Home Office sent some of its Whitehall men north, to set up crude spy networks amongst refugees to investigate potential sabotage and keep an eye on morale in industrial towns and cities that they didn’t entirely trust or understand.”
Season 2 will take viewers from the war-torn streets of Britain deep into Nazi Germany, the resistance within occupied France, and the brutal sands of the North African desert.
“In this second series we turn our eyes to North Africa, where Soldiers from the British Empire found themselves fighting for the Allies in a desert that had been carved up in the previous century by European powers,” reveals Peter Bowker.
“So alongside British Soldiers we tell the story of Indian fighters and Italian enemies – pulled together by battle on a landscape that was no more familiar to them than the surface of the moon – and possibly less hospitable.
“In Europe we dramatise the deteriorating situation in occupied France as the Nazi occupation hardens and resistance becomes increasingly dangerous . . . And in Germany we tell a story of how a warped and toxic nationalism can induce “ordinary people” to bend their morality to breaking point.”
Bowker concludes his introduction to Season 2 by summing up what he aims to achieve with World on Fire.
“As always, we tell stories which have an unforced and not always comfortable contemporary resonance, stories that demonstrate both human resilience and human folly and stories of ordinary lives in extraordinary times.
“Historical drama should not be about nostalgia and I hope this isn’t how this series is regarded. It is about asking questions of the present by interrogating stories from our past.
“And at the heart of these stories, amongst multiple perspectives, the single question remains – ‘If you had been there, what would you have done?'”
Peter Bowker previously told fans that he hopes World on Fire will run for six seasons – hopefully there’ll be a much shorter gap next time!
World on Fire is available to watch on PBS Masterpiece.