Entertainment » Television

Charles Darwin And The Tree Of Life

by Phil Hall
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Nov 16, 2009
Charles Darwin And The Tree Of Life

It is not every day that Charles Darwin plays a supporting role in a documentary about his life and work. However, the BBC documentary Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life finds the father of evolution repeatedly elbowed aside in favor of Sir David Attenborough, the program's.

Attenborough speaks at great length about Darwin's impact on his life: as a geology student as Cambridge, as the driving force behind the 1979 TV series Life of Earth (there are plenty of clips from that production here), and as a source of personal wonder (for all of his egomania, Attenborough seems genuinely to adore Darwin).

Although Attenborough is front and center talking about Darwin, he does allow beautifully filmed clips of wildlife to illustrate what Darwin was thinking about. He also narrates a clever computer-generated illustration of the eponymous Tree of Life, which allows a detailed explanation of what Darwin's theory was all about.

Fortunately, Attenborough is an engaging ham and an enthusiastic raconteur--his mix of personal and historical is distinctive and would not work with a lesser on-camera talent. This may explain why this DVD's bonus feature, the hour-long BBC documentary Darwin's Struggle: The Evolution of the Origin of Species covers the exact same territory, with but infinitely more depth about Darwin, his family, and his unique scientific research.

Phil Hall is the author of "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time

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