on 23 November 2005
There are seven one-off 'specials' in this package. If you're interested in natural history, popular science or you like the sort of programmes David Attenborough makes, you'll find a casket of treasure to your liking here. The jewels in this box are:
1) "Attenborough in Paradise" (1996)
David achieves a childhood ambition of finding and filming the Birds of Paradise described by Alfred Russel Wallace in his book, "The Malay Archipelago". He visits New Guinea and surrounding islands to track down these breath-takingly beautiful birds. Their plumage, colours and mating dances are spectacular. The environment is so benign that the female birds can build their nests and raise their young without the help of males, so the females choose a mate on the basis of his beauty and dancing ability alone. As a result, sexual selection has produced the most incredible variety of extravagant displays imaginable.
2) "A Blank on the Map" (1971)
The central area of New Guinea was thought to be uninhabited until aerial photographs showed signs of human habitation. David accompanies an expedition into the interior to find and make contact with these people and map the area. He encounters tree kangaroos, an echidna, goura pigeons (another fabulously beautiful bird), an emerald tree python and leeches along the way. When they find a house, they don't hesitate to break in and rifle through the contents. When they eventually find people, they try to get them interested in trading beads and salt for food. They have limited success but then the people disappear - possibly (David feels) pushed too far too fast.
3) "The Lost Gods of Easter Island" (2000)
A carved wooden idol that David purchased in a New York auction room is traced back to its origin: Easter Island. It was cheap because the seller probably believed it was a forgery. But during the course of this programme its whole history is discovered: carved on Easter Island while there was still wood of the toromiro tree (now extinct on the island), to represent the god Makemake, traded with the crew of captain Cook's ship, transported to Tahiti, probably traded by the Tahitians with the crew of an American whaling ship and ended up in the US.
4) "Bowerbirds: The Art of Seduction" (2000)
This time the birds are in Australia and New Guinea. Like the Birds of Paradise, Bowerbird females build their nests and raise their young alone so the male has all day to gather his treasures and create his bower. There seems to be a bowerbird rule: the more elaborate the bower the plainer the bird - the simpler the bower, the more vivid the plumage. David mischievously moves a leaf or a piece of lichen to see what the bird will do, then moves away. The bird flies back scoldingly and fussily returns his artistic display to its former perfection. Fascinating.
5) "The Song of the Earth" (2000)
This natural history of music begins with David playing the piano (rather well, to my untrained ear). Searching for the origins of human music, he traces its connections to the musical sounds that other animals make: the beauty of the wolf's howl, the complexity of the bat's cry, the deep rumble of the elephant's signals, the acoustically sophisticated sounds the dolphin produces and the songs of whales and birds. Why do these animals produce this amazing variety of sounds? It's all tied up with sex and territory.
6) "Life on Air" (2002)
This programme takes a long and extremely entertaining look at David's career in television, from his earliest application for a job with BBC radio, which resulted in a job as Production Assistant for BBC television, then working on a series called Zoo Quest (first working behind the camera team and then in front of it), his job as head of BBC2 from its black and white beginnings through the introduction of colour, his elevation to BBC Director of Programmes where they were kind enough to let him out of his suit every now and then to go and be intrepid, his rejection of the job of BBC Director General so that he could go and do "Life on Earth" instead and .... so on.
7) "The Amber Time Machine" (2004)
Amber washed up on the shores of the Baltic Sea was given to David when he was 12 year old. He goes there to find out what that piece of amber has to tell about life in the forest where it bled from some sort of pine tree, trapping a community of insects as it oozed down the bark. Then a trip to the Dominican Republic, where amber reveals astonishing details about life up to 150 million years ago. In addition to insects, amber traps things like lizards, tadpoles, mammal hairs and seeds. Some of the perfectly preserved creatures have been scanned, X rayed and tested for traces of DNA. The stories they tell are quite remarkable.
It's a fantastic collection of programmes and I highly recommend all seven of them.
on 3 February 2006
David Attenborough's great strength is that he is so sold on his subject, he has no need to be anything but himself and so has proved to be able to reach a wide audience across the age spectrum. We made a bargain with our grandchildren that instead of spending the equivalent (and more) to take them to the local cinema, we would try investing in these DVD's instead with them being the judges as to how successful the idea turned out to be. We set a date and then all settled down with juice and popcorn to hand. The children (7 + 3) watched enthralled and gave the experience the thumbs up - quite an achievement with the competition being as stiff as it is. And of course, they've been able to watch again and again and again!! Now we're all enthusiastically saving up to buy The Life Collection.
on 5 July 2006
I thought this DVD was brilliant! The first DVD was mainly about New Guinea and the birds of paradise. It showed birds of paradise and bower birds and their incredible creations which amazed me.
David Attenborough once again proves that he is head and shoulders above most in his field. These DVDS have seven documentries all of which are interesting and very well done. It also includes 'Life on Air' a look back on David Attenboroughs career. They are all done with David Attenborough's enthuisiasm and and entertaining style.
He looks at Birds of paradise and Bower birds, some of the worlds most amazing birds. Definetly worth seeing!
There is already an excellent and precise review of the episodes here so it would be pointless for me to repeat this information.
I had 3 favourites from this set:
From my own point of view I think this is a great collection of Attenborough favourites. I bought it based on the episode 'Lost Gods of the Easter Island' which I had seen before and the journey of Attenborough tracing the origin of an idol he bought in a New York Auction had me enthralled. It isn't just about tracing the idol, but an educational insight to the Easter Islands and why they came to fall.
The Amber Time machine episode was another personal view into Attenboroughs world. Based simply on a gift of Amber he received as a child and episode springs to life and holds you in its grip. You learn about the types of amber, where it comes from, how t traps insects and how it can act as a window into our past.
My other favourite was 'A blank on a Map'. This is where Attenborough explores a part of New Guinea that has been cut off from the civilised world. You really had a sense of what it must have been like for the early explorers trekking through jungles that had no trails and then looking for a tribe of people who had no contact with the outside world.
Some of the footage is a bit poor, but that is to be expected from some of the archival footage, however, that doesn't take anything away from this excellent set.
My last note is to say that I bought this set for under 5GBP on Amazon. At the time of this review it is being sold of almost 20GBP - I think it is a good set, but not for 20GBP. If you want it I would say shop around or wait and watch for the price fluctuations.
on 4 January 2015
This series of seven programmes demonstrates, once again, that when it comes to documentaries Sir David stands head and shoulders above all other narrators/presenters. His innate charm and wisdom shine through almost as brightly as the plumage of some of the male birds of paradise, here featured.
Attenborough is, of course, ably supported by the wizards who work at the BBC Natural History Unit. These DVDs once again demonstrate all of the traits that we have become used to over the years.
Here we are whisked off to a host of stunning locations around the globe and are treated to many stunning sights and sounds. We witness birds of paradise, bower birds, lost tribes, the statues of Easter Island and an entertaining look at Attenborough's career - to,mention just some of the beauties available to us.
These 2 DVDs represent excellent value for money and should grace the collection of anyone interested in natural history. Very highly recommended.
on 3 September 2009
David Attenborough's lifetime devotion to the study and dissemination of information about the state of the natural world is supported here by some 'occasional pieces'.
An essential supplement to the mainstream Attenborough, this includes a very sensitive encounter forty years ago with a remote culture in the highlands of New Guinea, south of Wewak and to the west of Madang. His Australian 'kiap' guide was respectful of where he was stationed. If only the others who encountered these cultures had been less concerned with removing the gold, enforcing christianity and looting forest resources we might have a better relationship across all cultures.
on 4 June 2007
I caught a rare glimpse of "Attenborough in Paradise" on American cable TV some years back; since then I've searched for ANYTHING with Sir David's name on it. Although I am quite pleased with the "Planet Earth" series of DVDs, it would be wonderful if DVDs on the Birds of Paradise were made available to us poor slobs in the US, i.e., formatted for Region 1. To all BBC-DVD studio employees: When finished pressing a bajillion discs of Sir David's DVDs for the UK, please press the "REGION 1" button and run me off a few copies -- and please, keep the original narration (none of that Sigourney Weaver nonsense). I eagerly await your reply...