'The rational genius who propelled us out of medieval darkness and into the enlightenment' is how they set up Newton at the start of this profile-with-actors. But the programme very much wants us to see another side of the great rationalist: when his more obscure writings came to light in the 1930s, it emerged that Newton was obsessed not just with hard physics but with murkier areas like alchemy and heretical theology.
I found this programme rather disappointing. It seemed to
wish to picture Newton's interest in alchemy as odd
or perverse, almost as an escape he withdrew into, when
his theory of optics was not immediately accepted.
The reality is that in the late 17th century, alchemy
was part of the intellectual discourse. Many other
people, now recognised as forerunners of ideas that
came to characterise science as we know it - Napier,
Glauber, Boyle, and so on - embraced alchemy as a
part of the intellectual tradition of their times, so
this was not specific to Newton. I thought the programme
did not make this point clear.
It also took a rather negative view, as is often done, of
the amazing experimenter Robert Hooke.