Top positive review
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Still amazing after 25 years
on 18 January 2004
First broadcast way back in 1979, Life on Earth remains the single most impressive achievement in the history of wildlife film-making.
The series offers a broad overview of the whole history of life, beginning with the very earliest cells and leading right up to the appearance of man, using footage of various living plants and animals from around the world to illustrate each major episode in the story. For anyone with an interest in nature, and who would like a good introduction to evolutionary biology that is both stunning and superbly explained, you can do no better than this incredible series.
It is true, as many reviewers have pointed out, that the content of this DVD shows some signs of age. This is inevitable when you remember that it is separated from us by 25 years of filming technology and scientific knowledge. Most noticeable to me is that the colour print is not as rich and vivid as a contemporary film, but then again the clarity of the pictures remains remarkably good with only a few short sequences seriously falling below par when compared with a recent film such as Life of Birds. For example, there are some underwater shots in one of the episodes that can't really hold a candle to the crystal clear material that we're treated to in the Blue Planet. The onwards march of scientific research means that, very occassionally, some of the information in the films might be considered out of date, but this is rare. Finally, there were no computer graphics to speak of 25 years ago and some of the animated sequences that are used in particular to illustrate features of ancient, long extinct lifeforms do look very dated. If the series were to be remade today then it would be augmented with much more sophisticated reconstructions.
However, when all of this is said and done, the two essential elements of this series still never fail to impress. These are the presentation of David Attenborough - always clear, authoritative and compelling - and, of course, the wildlife photography itself.
It is first and foremost to David Attenborough and the BBC that we owe our thanks for the fact that most British people's impression of the natural world about them includes many of the creatures and environments with which we are familiar today. If all we were fed was the kind of cutesy baby animals and crocodile baiting fare of the Disney variety then the effect that this might have had on environmental awareness and charitable giving to green organisations can only be guessed at. And besides, given that the spectacle and drama of the best wildlife films is often far better than most of what you see on TV and down the cinema, we would also have lost a great source of entertainment. Even if this kind of thing were all that the licence fee was spent on, it would still be worth every penny.