Rather than focus on evolution or geography, the emphasis is on animal behaviour, from courting and mating, to giving birth and raising the young, hunting, flight and fighting, finding shelter, and migration. This immediacy makes The Trials of Life the most accessible of "The Life Trilogy" for younger children, though the abridgement makes it play like a superior schools programme. This short-attention-span version of a television masterpiece simply makes one wish for a fully restored, extra packed special edition of the complete series. David Attenborough would go on to make The Private Life of Plants and The Life of Birds. --Gary S Dalkin
On the DVD: The Trials of Life has a good though slightly soft and grainy 4:3 picture that would benefit from remastering from the original elements. The stereo sound is a clear improvement over the originally broadcast mono, but a full 5.1 DTS remix would have brought out the best in the atmospheric natural location recording. The only extra is a 49-minute "making of" documentary, "Once More into the Termite House", originally shown as a companion to the series. Given a DVD all to itself, this programme offers a real insight into the challenges of making such a vast programme, while David Attenborough is as affable as ever. There are optional English and Greek subtitles on all three discs. --Gary S Dalkin
Unfortunately, what you're getting here is a cut-down version. The 12 original episodes each ran for 50 minutes, here they run for 30. This means that over 4 hours has been omitted. The start and end credits have also been removed.
What's particularly galling is the packaging clearly states "The complete series". How is leaving a quarter of the material out "complete"? Trade descriptions act, anyone?
On a technical level, there's nothing wrong with this disc at all. Sure, it's 4:3 ratio, but it was made in 1990 - 8 years before widescreen broadcasts were even available. It was also one of the first programmes to be made with stereo sound, which had just become available.
Overall though this was a huge disappointment, and gross mis-advertising on the BBC's part. One can only hope that the BBC re-release this as a genuine "complete series" and offer a free replacement to anyone who's bought this.
However, this is the only part of the Life Trilogy that has been butchered in this way. The recent releases of "Life On Earth" and "The Living Planet" are, indeed, complete.
I saw the reviews here and thought I could live with the cutting of this series but I can't. Each episode feels hurried and there is no pleasure for me in watching them. Sure the series itself is probably worth 5 stars but not in this horrid butchered state. Buy all the full 'Life of' DvDs 1st and get this last (if you really have to).
I would dearly love the full series to be released but I don't think I'll ever look at the edited version again. Avoid.