Whilst woolly mammoth, giant birds, and, most especially, dinosaurs, take centre stage in the TV version of prehistory, our smaller and more vital antecedents on the tree of life are often ignored. This is a huge shame, as the earliest periods of life on our planet contain some of the most fascinating and bizarre creatures ever to have lived. And so the mighty David Attenborough (who else?!) takes us on a journey round the world, from the coast of England to the Burgess shale, to meet our earliest ancestors.
The extraordinary first phase of terrestrial life is described with love and affection, (as you might expect of Attenborough, whose entire career has been a selfless love-letter to the creatures of our world, living and dead), and we meet these creatures face-to-face, as if in a personal encounter. We meet the first fractal organisms, neither plant nor animal. We meet the incredible trilobites, with their solid crystal eyes. And we meet creatures so bizarre they look like nothing alive today, giving us a tantalising glimpse into the directions evolution might have taken.
The CGI is well-done, and (crucially) not intrusive. The fossils - particularly the splendid Trilobites - are hauntingly beautiful and strange. Give this to a child at just the right age, and you'll create a life-long interest in nature and the history of life. My only complaint about this is there are only two episodes.