Life Story

Life Story (known as The Race for the Double Helix or Double Helix in the U.S.) is a 1987 TV film dramatisation of the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953. Directed by Mick Jackson, it was originally made for the BBC's Horizon science series and is considered one of the better science docu-dramas.


The film tells the story of the rivalries of the two teams of scientists attempting to discover the nature of DNA. Francis Crick & James D. Watson at Cambridge University and Maurice Wilkins & Rosalind Franklin at King's College London.


The film was directed by Mick Jackson and includes music composed by Peter Howell of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It also recreated detailed, 1950s style, molecular models.

The film manages to convey the loneliness and competitiveness of scientific research but also educates the viewer as to how the structure of DNA was discovered. In particular, it explores the tension between the patient, dedicated lab work of Franklin and the sometimes uninformed intuitive leaps of Watson and Crick, all played against a background of institutional turf wars, personality conflicts and sexism. Jokes Watson, plugging the path of intuition: "Blessed are they who believed before there was any evidence." The film also shows why Watson and Crick truly earned their discovery: they overtook their competitors in part by reasoning from genetic function to predict chemical structure, thus helping to establish the then still-nascent field of molecular biology. Nevertheless, Franklin would rightly have shared the Nobel Prize had she not died tragically of cancer before it was awarded. All of this is insightfully examined in the supplementary materials to the Norton Critical Edition of Watson's book The Double Helix (ISBN 0-393-95075-1), to which the film makes a fine companion.

Note that in the EDDE Entertainment VHS version (EDO280 1993), a few scenes are inexplicably (and confusingly) cut.

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