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The most refreshing aspect of this excellent BBC/Science Channel co-production is the fact that it has an atheist Nobel-prize winning physicist as its main protagonist. ‘The Challenger’ tells the story of Richard Feynman (regarded by many as one of the greatest physicists to have ever lived) and his role as part of the Rogers Commission, a select group charged with investigating the 1986 disaster which saw Space Shuttle Challenger break apart killing its seven-strong crew. Surrounded by half-truths, secrecy and Washington cover-ups, Feynman is forced to combat sordid political tactics with pure logic and science.
It’s a compelling story, and one that’s brought to vivid reality by an exceptional cast and some brilliant writing. William Hurt is masterful as the determined Feynman, a moral and extremely gifted scientist who’s ravaged by cancer and has a slight hint of The Dude from ‘The Big Lebowski’ about him. Like all dramatisations, it’s likely ‘The Challenger’ takes a few liberties with the truth, but this is nevertheless a gripping and revealing account of the Challenger disaster aftermath.