Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

David Attenborough: Life Stories

(UK, 2013)

A three-part series on PBS’s Nature show. They are a retrospective on his life as the world’s most famous and beloved naturalist, and the changes that have happened since his television debut on a BBC show called Zoo Quest, first shown in 1954.

Life On Camera Back then, it took weeks to get to Borneo, and more weeks to voyage up distant rivers to find the Komodo Dragon or the Bird of Paradise. (I’m betting David has been to Borneo more times than any European who doesn’t actually live there.) There were still head-hunting tribes. Camera equipment was bulky and noisy, and the film was black and white. This episode traces the advances in technology that have brought us slow-motion, time-lapse, infrared, and the latest innovation, 4KHD. The differences in what we can see because of the intrepid photographers who sometimes wait for months to capture an elusive creature or behavior are truly striking.

Understanding the Natural World. We have learned a lot since 1954, when continental drift was lampooned as a crazy idea. This episode stars two women who made breakthroughs in understanding animal behavior: Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.

Our Fragile Planet. Back to Borneo again, where the endless jungle of 1954 has been logged out and replaced with endless rows of trees for producing palm oil.

As always, David is engaging and informative, while at the same time being a whole lot of fun. He has done a lot of things I envy, and a lot of things I’m happy to have missed. All in all, I’d rather see most of this stuff on the telly rather than go there myself and suffer the hardships he and his crews endure. But I will always be grateful that they did it.