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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 5 July 2004
One of those truly ground-breaking series. Despite it's age I still had the same thrill watching now as I did as a kid all those years ago.
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on 13 January 2008
Life On Earth is almost as old as me now and I need to say that its wearing a little better. Produced to be among the most comprehensive documentaries of its kind and presented by the incomparable David Attenborough it is a masterwork bringing science to the masses and making it interesting and entertaining.
When it starts up with the pompous music and the late 1970s graphics it all looks as if its going to be a bit rubbish. Then Attenborough appears and you're stuck by his relative youthfulness and confidence is further drained. By the end of the first episode, however, any fears are dispelled as the series starts to tell its fascinating tale of how life on our little blue orb came to be as varied and as fantastic. The series does this by taking small steps while drawing in broad strokes. Attenborough works up as the series progresses from single celled organisms and molluscs in the early episodes to mammals and even humans in the last. While pretty much every form of life you can imagine is discussed throughout the series it is all done in very general terms while cleverly focussing on the most important details. Its actually remarkable that a single episode details reptiles but manages to educate on the most important varieties and provide some great and vivid images.
There is some stunning photography (and some very poor graphics that do age the series) of everything from hunting lions to foraging platypuses and the attention to detail is magnificent. The whole thing is bound together by the near whisper of David Attenborough who always sounds trapped somewhere between awe and amusement but never, ever, stops sounding authoritative. There is quite literally no-one on television in the field of natural history who can capture the imagination of the population so intensely, largely because he knows how to project his seemingly boundless enthusiasm for his subject onto the viewer. He sounds as excited about the aforementioned hunting lions as he does about a frog leaping from tree to tree and that carries the viewer into the jungle or onto the savannah, watching as if they were there with him.
As tiny caveats, as stated above, some of the graphics look very dated indeed. It wouldn't have hurt for the Beeb to have replaced some of the animated sequences showing extinct animals etc with new state of the art graphics for the DVD release. I also would not recommend it for any fans of Creationism or Intelligent Design as Attenborough is clearly a firm believer in the scientific principles of Darwinism and natural selection. Overall though this is a fantastic and through nature documentary and a prime example of why we have a licence fee and reminds us that Attenborough is a national treasure.
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on 25 July 2015
Been meaning to get this for a long time and so glad I did the quality is what you would expect from something filmed so long a go but well good enough to watch on my 42 inch screen. If your not bothered by it not being in hd you'll love it.
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Life On Earth is the first instalment of what went on to become Attenborough's monumental Life series, and it both stands on it's own as a masterpiece of factual television, even now over thirty years later, as well as marking that first step on a journey of incredible richness, fascination and generosity, as David and his teams have shared his passionate enthusiasm and their incredible film-making skills with countless millions of viewers over the years. Rather than detail the contents, as other reviewers no doubt have done already, here are a few of some of the more personal reasons I love this series.

For a start, this isn't just a brilliant series in itself, it's also part of a TV phenomenon in which Attenborough was instrumental: it was under his auspices that the format that came to be known as the 'sledgehammer' came into being. Prior to BBC2's groundbreaking Civilisation, a brilliant series commissioned by Attenborough when he was controller of the then very young channel - which was quite understandably and deservedly a huge success - BBC documentaries rarely if ever exceeded 30 minutes per episode. Civilisation ushered in a longer series format, typically of 12 or 13 episodes, each episode being approximately 55 minutes long.

This is something that's now sadly on the decline, as peon execs assume ever-shortening attention spans on our part. Where they dumb down, Attenborough sought to engage and enlighten, to 'brighten up'. As a sign of the times, compare for example the fact that Diarmaid MacCulloch's A History Of Christianity TV series was only six episodes long (the contrast with his book on the same subject, a vast and comprehensive tome, is shocking), whereas Bamber Gascoigne's 1977 series The Christians partook of the sledgehammer approach, at a more respectable 13 episodes. Was Attenborough's approach too high-brow? I think history suggests otherwise.

Like Civilisation and The Ascent Of Man, Life On Earth takes a serious - not to mention huge - subject, and treats it in properly dignified depth. Attenborough had quite a time extricating himself from behind various high ranking desk jobs (read about this or listen to him tell you about it in Life on Air), as he'd risen to the top of the BBC empire, in order to ensure that he himself got to make the sledgehammer whose subject was closest to his heart. Quite apart from anything else, such as the small fact that the series itself (in terms of scope, ambition and content) is in so many ways simply wonderful, it's Attenborough's personal passion which transcends the time in which the film was made, to make this a collection that remains compelling, informative, inspiring, and just plain enriching and enjoyable.

Yes technology has moved on (some reviewers here are overly harsh in this respect I think: in our current age so much is about surface gloss, all too often at the expense of content), and, as you'd expect, the more recent works of Attenborough and others, are, in some ways - particularly regarding technological advancements - 'better'. But how can you really better scenes like the moment in which Attenborough hunkers down with a gorilla family, or his unalloyed joy as he holds a platypus in his arms, or when he narrates, amidst the rain-forest, Darwin's own tropical reveries when trying to count and categorize the countless beetles around him? In all honesty, I don't think you can.

That enchanting and enthralling encounter between Attenborough and a community of mountain gorillas, in which David's compassion and empathy with and for these animals, so closely related to us genetically, and yet in so many ways so alien to us, makes for a very moving piece of television. Life On Earth is worth owning for that moment alone. But of course it is in fact like taking a dive into the depths and finding the ocean floor carpeted with treasures. A bona fide classic, no home is complete without it!

PS - the soundtrack - Life on Earth: Music From 1979 BBC TV Series - is worthy of note: composed by Edward Williams, it's available through the excellent Trunk Records, and is quite enchanting in it's own right.
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on 4 February 2008
I saw this series when I was 10 years old, and it was absolutely incredible. It is one of those programs that sticks with you, and even now (yes, it is a bit grainy on my plasma TV, and David Attenborough looks so young! :) I can sit and watch it with the sense of wonderment I felt all those years ago... Back then, it also prompted me to do several school science projects on scorpions, spiders, snakes, lizards and almost every other creepy crawly! I can't recommend this enough for all ages. Yes, Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Life in the Undergrowth etc. are mandatory viewing as well but this is one of the original and one of the best! Long live David Attenborough!
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on 18 September 2008
My father videoed this series for me when it was 1st aired in 1978/79 (yes, videos were out then!), and I watched it time after time as a boy.

Even now, as soon as I hear that classical score by Edward Williams, and Davids narration, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

Brings back great memories and is still compelling viewing. I now watch the DVD version with my own 5 year old Son.

A classic.
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on 29 April 2013
this collection was made in the early 80s, but still looks actual. of course the photography is what to expect from that time, but the content is still interesting. how was the evolution of life since the very beggining until today? bacteria, fish, reptiles, birds, mammals, all is there! it's a must watch in my humble opinion
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on 22 November 2009
Forget what the nerds say about improved technical quality in later programmes in this series. This is vintage BBC in its great days, with the glow of the young David Attenborough about it, and sufficient edge to the filming to make it still exciting viewing. More than just another nature programme!
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on 26 May 2014
I thought this series might be a bit dated but it isn't and is a fantastic series of 13 episodes. I've watched many nature and David Attenborough narrated documentaries and loved this series from start to finish. Life-forms that I never knew existed and some wonderful camera shots. Flying 'foxes' gliding 100's of metres from tree to tree and much much more. A must see.
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VINE VOICEon 27 May 2010
This is the first, most famous and, in my opinion, the best of all the wonderful David Attenborough's "Life" series. It's far too well-known to need me to go into what it's about, other than to say it is a chronological exploration and explanation of the development of life on earth. Big subject? You bet, but how fascinating, and just plain beautiful it is!
Amazingly enough, it was made in 1979, but apart from the youthful appearance of Mr. A, it has not dated at all. I was prepared, in this age of HD and digital TV, to find that the picture and colour quality was not up to modern standards. The very first programme is a bit ropy in the colour department, seeming a bit over-exposed and very turquoise and orange, but the rest are perfectly acceptable, and I guarantee you won't be disappointed. It was considered a ground-breaking series in its day, and I don't think it has ever been bettered.
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