Zero Hour (2004)

Genres: Documentary Series



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Zero Hour is a Canadian-made, British-produced, documentary-style television program, which airs on The History Channel in the United States and Canada, on the BBC in the United Kingdom, on Channel Seven in Australia and on Discovery Channel in Asia, Africa and New Zealand.

The show relives some of the most iconic moments of modern times through a unique format.

Minute-by-minute, Zero Hour takes viewers into the very midst of events in a more urgent and intimate way than ever before, giving a true-to-life recreation of historic events.

With a countdown clock and split screens, this series follows the crucial hour from the perspectives of the key players and the central theatres of action.

High-end recreations are artfully blended with archival and news footage, eyewitness accounts and poignant interviews, all backed by in-depth research to ensure that what is seen is clearly triggered by factual information.

Using primary sources such as diaries, letters, phone transcripts and investigation findings, Zero Hour breaks thrilling, new television ground in a visually exciting and dramatically intense way.


There are six episodes in the third season of Zero Hour:

Operation Certain Death - The SAS In Sierra Leone

Incident Date:
11 September, 2000

Airs In South Africa:
Monday 12 February 2007, at 22h00

As six British soldiers sit imprisoned in a hut in the jungles of Sierra Leone, their captors – a heavily-armed militia group known as the West Side Boys – are mostly sleeping. But unknown to either group, an audacious SAS rescue mission is moments away.

Zero Hour arrives as five helicopters carrying more than 120 paratroopers appear over the horizon, unleashing an awesome military strike on the unsuspecting rebel camp.

Operation Barras – the rescue of six members of the Royal Irish Regiment in Sierra Leone – was perhaps the most daring and impressive SAS rescue mission of all time.

It was described by one defence chief as the "most complex mission carried out by British troops in years"; Brigadier Andrew Stewart, who co-ordinated the mission from Permanent Joint HQ in North-West London, said of it: "As a purely military operation, it knocks the lifting of the Iranian embassy siege into a cocked hat."

Referred to by those involved as "Operation Certain Death", it was a precision military strike, in which weeks of careful planning came together in a perfectly coordinated hour.

This documentary looks at the circumstances of the raid, and the background to British involvement in Sierra Leone. It reconstructs the events of the operation in minute detail, speaking to those involved in its planning and execution.

The North Hollywood Shootout - The Real Heat

Incident Date:
28 February, 1997

Airs In South Africa:
Monday 19 February 2007, at 22h00

As two armed robbers terrorise staff and customers inside a Bank of America branch in San Fernando Valley, North Hollywood, they are oblivious to the mounting police presence outside the building.

The scene is set for the most extraordinary and violent shootout in modern American police history: one that led to an immediate review of the weapons carried by LAPD patrols.

The police standard-issue 9mm Baretta handguns were simply no match for the robbers' armour-piercing rounds, and had no effect against their body armour.

It was not until S.W.A.T. teams were called in that the standoff was brought to a bloody end.

Ten patrol cars were destroyed - one sustaining 57 hits. A sidewalk kiosk, used for cover by officers on the scene, was perforated by 150 bullets.

Hostage Rescue At Lima

Incident Date:
22 April, 1997

Airs In South Africa:
Monday 26 February 2007, at 22h00

A deadly game is in play for the lives of 72 men, held hostage for 126 days by a revolutionary guerilla movement at the Japanese Ambassador's residence.

On one side of the siege is Nestor Cerpa Cartolini, a revolutionary and desperate man willing to kill for the woman he loves; on the other side a ruthless and corrupt political czar, Vladimiro Montesinos.

At the heart of the siege is Admiral Luis Giampietri, a man who risks his own life to become a hero.

Zero Hour: Hostage Rescue At Lima is the story of the last hour of the last day of a terrifying siege that lasted 126 days.

Royal Massacre In Nepal

Incident Date:
June, 2001

Airs In South Africa:
Monday 5 March 2007, at 22h00

The brutal massacre of 10 members of the Nepalese Royal Family in June 2001 shocked the world, and brought a nation to the brink of destruction.

As the whole of Nepal struggled to come to terms with the senseless slaughter, many refused to believe the truth: that Crown Prince Dipendra had gunned down nine members of his own family - including his mother, father, brother and sister - in cold blood before turning the gun on himself.

In one fell swoop, the king and his immediate family had been wiped out, leaving Nepal a country in despair, its royal lineage in tatters.

Columbia's Final Flight

Incident Date:
1 February, 2003

Airs In South Africa:
Monday 12 March 2007, at 22h00

Seventeen years after the Challenger disaster, NASA's space shuttle program is threatened once again when Columbia's re-entry goes horribly wrong.

Seven astronauts are vapourised within two minutes as the shuttle breaks up. Miraculously, video footage from inside Columbia survives the shuttle's break-up.

The Zero Hour is followed through the eyes of Bob Daugherty: the NASA engineer who spotted damage on lift-off, pin-points the potential danger for re-entry and fights a losing battle to have his viewpoint heard; Kenneth Bowersox, astronaut on the International Space Station who watches both his friends and his ride back to Earth burn up in front of his eyes; Kalpana Chawla, Columbia's flight engineer whose job is to watch for malfunctions and to operate the on-board video cameras; and Steve Stich, flight director who assures everyone that the shuttle was not damaged during take-off ... he is wrong.

Terror Target

Incident Date:
26 December, 1994

Airs In South Africa:
Monday 19 March 2007, at 22h00

Air France flight 8969, with a full complement of 173 passengers and crew, is hijacked by terrorists of the Armed Islamic Group (AIG).

As the plane stands on the tarmac in Marseilles, the terrorists demand the plane be fully loaded with fuel and then given clearance to fly on to Paris. They have wired the plane with explosives and their real goal is to detonate the fully loaded Airbus A300 directly over the Eiffel Tower.

Unknown to the terrorists, the plane's passengers and crew, the GIGN - Special Forces Gendarmes - have a plan that will ensure the plane never leaves the ground in Marseilles.

It is an operation they have been practicing for two days on an identical plane parked at an airport on the island of Majorca. Remarkable archive footage of this operation is intercut with re-enactments aboard the plane.

It is the most successful counter-terrorist attack ever and becomes the blueprint for how to handle such situations.

The blueprint will, however, fail on 11 September, 2001.


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