Monday, 10 March 2014
Life on Earth (1979)
David Attenborough first appeared on TV screens in 1952, but it was not until nearly three decades later that he began the series of documentaries for which he is most widely known: the Life series of programs.
There have now been nine entries in the Life series. Life on Earth was the first. It's a 13-part series outlining the evolution of different forms of life on the planet, from the very earliest single-celled organisms, through to the modern day. It does this in a broadly chronological order, covering simple creatures like sponges and jellyfish in the first episode, then moving on to the first invertebrates, and then modern plants and insects. From there it dedicates an episode each to fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Finally, mammals get no less than four episodes: one for marsupials and early mammals, one for modern herbivores and carnivores, one for primates, and then the final episode is all about a shy and retiring species known as 'humans'.
First off, I'd like to say it's nice to see a natural history show that covers humans in more or less the same way as other animals (well, excepting the 'giving them a whole episode to themselves' thing). Attenborough also takes the time to point out that just because humans are currently the most successful living creature on the planet doesn't mean that we'll remain so. As he notes, evolution is an ongoing process, and we will almost inevitably go the way of the dinosaurs at some point. Not the most upbeat of final thoughts for a documentary, that!
Despite being over thirty years old, this is still a fine introduction to evolution and to the many and varied forms of life that it's produced. Well worth a look if you have any interest at all in the world around you.