This documentary sets out like a series of lectures, given by Bronowski himself, who tours various locations to give more credence to the contents. Needless to say, the facts presented were established truths at the time and although some have naturally been eroded by time and changing paradigms, most of the content still stands today. The age of the documentary, then, does not take away from it the bulk of the message. It does, however, affect the presentation.
In recent years, documentaries have had to develop their presentation in order to reach the masses. TV series and films are being produced in such great amounts that they end up fighting for time on the screen - creating a driving force for producing documentaries that attract the attention of the general populace in new and inventive ways. Content is no longer enough. A popularistic presentation is also necessary. Notably, this is achieved through music, imagery and other exciting effects. "The Ascent of Man" has little of this.
In my opinion, the best documentary is the one that finds a suitable balance between the popularistic and being a pure university lecture. The former is too simplistic and lacking in nuance, the latter is dry and uninteresting. A decent balance between the two offers facts and context in an enlightening fashion; is interesting and engaging without compromising the message.
"The Ascent of Man" resembles a poorly structured university lecture - a lecture full of facts you may as well have read in the book designed for the course. Now, that may be well and good in a world where educating the masses through the television is considered a novel idea, but in today's world, it is no longer new. In today's world, this documentary contains too many dry facts. Thus leaving it too dry to be of use to the young - who lack the facts but have shorter attention spans than more adult students - and too devoid of context to be of use to those who have the facts but require more. On the scale from the purely popularistic to the university lecture, "The Ascent of Man" finds itself closer to the latter than the former. It was made for a world when documentaries were rarer than they are today. Its contents have more or less stood the test of time but, sadly, the presentation has not. Don't get me wrong: it was an outstandig piece of work. It was.
Mostly, this will serve you as an archive, or as a way of illustrating the evolution - not in mankind, but in the presentation of documentaries.