Monday, 14 September 2015

Trials of Life (1990)

This is the third of David Attenborough's three "big picture" nature documentaries (his works since then have focused more narrowly but more deeply).  I believe it to be the best of the three, which when you consider how impressed I was by the first and second, ought to give you an idea of just how good I think it is.

Rather than examining life on a class by class basis (separate episodes for plants, insects, reptiles, and so on), or by the environment in which they live (tundra, the sea, deserts and so on), Trials of Life focuses on the key challenges that all living creatures must face during the course of their lives, and how various different organisms tackle those hurdles.

Attenborough begins with birth, before moving onto adolescence, and then the key tasks that every creature must face: finding food (whether a herbivore or a carnivore), navigating, building a home, interacting (peacefully or otherwise) with other creatures, all of it ultimately leading up to the process of becoming a parent.  Which is, in the end, the key metric by which the success of any species is judged.  It's also of course a neat narrative circle for the series, as it ends where it began.

The twelve fifty-minute episodes of this series are packed with strange and startling information.  Whether you simply enjoy being educated, or specifically want to know more about the world in which we live, or you're a gamer or writer in search of inspiration (or a source of nightmare fuel - some of the ways different animals breed are not pretty), then this is a series you should check out.

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