"This series is about perhaps the most powerful idea ever to occur to the human mind. The idea is evolution by natural selection and the genius who thought of it was Charles Darwin [1809 to 1882]. I'm a biologist and Darwin has been an inspiration to me throughout my whole career.
His masterpiece, "On the Origin of Species" was published 150 years ago [in 1859] and it changed forever our view of the world and our place in it. What Darwin achieved was nothing less than a complete explanation of the complexity and diversity of all life. And yet it's one of the simplest ideas that anyone ever had.
In this series, I'm going to set out Darwin's big idea, I'll explain how the human species has struggled with the story of its own origins, and take you into the storm that is today's backlash against Darwin."
The above is what the narrator, Richard Dawkins, says in the introduction to this three-episode series. Dawkins is an ethologist, evolutionary biologist, popular science author, and formerly professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.
It is important to remember that this is a science presentation. It is NOT a documentary that presents the science VS religion debate.
This is a good primer on the man and the big idea that changed the way we think of the natural world and ourselves. The program goes further by looking at the implications of Darwin's work in the contemporary world.
It also addresses the continuing controversy surrounding Darwin's ideas and while it may seem to be a one-sided presentation, it's grounded in science rather than politics. (For me, after I saw this documentary, I wanted to read Darwin's 1859 masterpiece again!)
Three things stood out for me after I viewed this documentary:
(1) Darwin's ideas are explained quite well.
(2) Richard Dawkins' personal comments on Darwinian principles. For example (and I agree), he thinks "survival of the fittest" is an abhorrent way for human society to function.
(3) The e-mails Dawkins received after the publication of his bestselling book "The God Delusion" (2006). The comments (he reads some of them) he received were just horrible.
There is a second bonus disc included as well. It consists of six uncut interviews with a philosopher, a doctor/author, the head of the "Concerned Women for America" (CWA), the archbishop of Canterbury, a creationist, and science teachers. All interviews are informative, amusing, and can be exasperating. (I must confess that I almost pulled some of my hair out when listening to the interviews with the head of the CWA and the creationist.)
Finally, the DVD itself (the one released in 2009) is flawless in picture and audio quality. The main disc has 3 informative extras.
In conclusion, Richard Dawkins does a superb job in this presentation of Charles Darwin's ideas. See for yourself why this show won the BBC's "Best Documentary Series" award!!
(2008; 2 hr, 20 min; 3 episodes; each episode 46 min; each episode 6 chapters; bonus disc 4 hr; wide screen)
<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>