The Trials of Life
started as David Attenborough's most ambitious wildlife project, and ended as something really big. First came Life on Earth
(1978), then The Living Planet
(1984), but when The Trials of Life
(1990) arrived the already epic individual series became "The Life Trilogy", collectively the most impressive documentary achievement in the history of television. Unfortunately the epic has shrunk here, as not only have the credits been removed, but each of the 12 original episodes having been cut from 49 minutes to 28 minutes (though the scene everyone remembers--a whale pursuing its prey right onto the beach--survives).
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
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2.4 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), English ( Subtitles ), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Making Of, Multi-DVD Set, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: On the coast of Christmas Island a beach is painted crimson by the bodies of a million scarlet crabs, all choosing the same moment to lay their eggs in the sea. In East Africa an elephant calf is born and the females in the herd crowd around the newcomer, collaborating in looking after their young. On a Patagonian beach sea-lions lounge in supposed safety as a tall wave, concealing the huge presence of a killer whale, thunders towards the shore. Following the extraordinary series 'Life On Earth' and 'The Living Planet', David Attenborough surveyed the entire animal kingdom again in 'The Trials Of Life', the last in a trilogy of natural histories. This time he looks at animal behaviour itself, examining why creatures behave as they do and showing that their lives are a series of problems to be faced and overcome. Season 1 Arriving S1, Ep1 Oct. 3, 1990 Growing Up S1, Ep2 Oct. 10, 1990 Finding Food S1, Ep3 Oct. 17, 1990 Hunting and Escaping S1, Ep4 Oct. 24, 1990 Finding the Way S1, Ep5 Oct. 31, 1990 Homemaking S1, Ep6 Nov. 7, 1990 Living Together S1, Ep7 Nov. 14, 1990 Fighting S1, Ep8 Nov. 21, 1990 Friends and Rivals S1, Ep9 Nov. 28, 1990 Talking to Strangers S1, Ep10 Dec. 5, 1990 Courting S1, Ep11 Dec. 12, 1990 Continuing the Line S1, Ep12 Dec. 19, 1990 SCREENED/AWARDED AT: BAFTA Awards, ...The Trials of Life - Complete Series - 4-DVD Set