Monday, 25 October 2010

David Attenborough's 'First Life' - coming Nov 2010

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Sir David Attenborough is soon to be back with a spark - the spark of life and the story of 'First Life', a two-part series for BBC Two, to be broadcast at 9pm on Friday 5th and Friday 12th November 2010.  It will also be shown as a two-hour special by Discovery Channel in the US, and by broadcasters around the world, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in 2011.

In fifty years of broadcasting, Sir David Attenborough has travelled the globe to document the living world in all its wonder. Now, in the landmark series First Life, he goes back in time in search of the very first animals.

From the fog bound coastline of Newfoundland to the deserts of North Africa and the rainforests of Queensland, in First Life David Attenborough finds evidence in fossils and living animals of an extraordinary period in Earth’s history, half a billion years ago, when animals first appeared in the oceans. From the first eyes that saw, to the first predators that killed and the first legs that walked on land, these were creatures that evolved the traits and tools that allow all animals, including us, to survive to this day.

This is a story that can only be told now because in the last few years, stunning fossil finds at sites across the world have transformed our understanding of the First Life forms, and technology now allows us to recreate the first animals and their environments with photorealistic computer generated imagery (CGI). Read more on the 'First Life' website.

David Attenborough's First Life from Atlantic Productions on Vimeo.

It's not exactly Original, but I'd give my right leg...

Like millions of others I'm always excited to see a new Attenborough series and this is no exception - it promises to be a thrill-filled romp through weird and wonderful life forms from prehistory.

Unfortunately the series draws on the overused hyperbolic phrase 'using the latest technology' to describe how they are able to bring these animals to life for the first time in half a billion years. Er, I refer you to the many series the BBC have already produced which use CGI technology to do just that. My series 'Journey of Life' from 2005 for example, seems suspiciously similar. Arguably the only thing it lacked was the 'voice of god' from David Attenborough -  and that on it's own makes First Life worth watching, but it did feature a panoply of prehistoric critters that pop up again in First Life including the Ediacaran fauna and the folks of the Burgess Shale.

[I just noticed that since this article was published the line 'using the latest technology' has been cut  from the trailer... which used to occur just before 'it's possible to bring those creatures to life...' - Maybe someone is reading my posts! 27/10/10]

How original First Life may be is irrespective, I would still have given my right leg to work with David again, especially on a series about the evolution of the earliest Life on Earth - and featuring my favourite of all prehistoric predators - Anomalcaris. This already looks like it could be one of my top picks from this year, produced by Atlantic Productions. The same company who are currently putting the finishing touches to a 3D film presented by David for Sky (surprisingly Davids first significant foray away from the BBC) about prehistoric flying reptiles 'Flying Monsters'.

- Paul

The mystery fossils were in fact the jaws and appendages of a single animal, the first large predator known on Earth. It has been named Anomalcaris  after the first fossil discovery. (Atlantic Productions)

David Attenborough examines fossilised trilobites with Professor Richard Fortey, a leading trilobite expert. (Atlantic Productions)


  1. My mum and I sometimes play the 'dinner guest' game and David Attenborough is always on both our lists. I could just listen to him for hours :).

    As far as prehistoric predators go, Carcharias Megalodon does it for me :)

  2. To bad David was completely wrong in his explanation of why a trilobite is so named! Has nothing to do with head, middle, & tail. Tri – lobe – ite. Named for the three “lobes” dividing the animal lengthwise!

  3. Hi, from the U.S.!

    I googled "First Life" & stumbled upon this site. Looks interesting!

    Attenborough's narration was, as usual, engaging.

    As a "rockhound", I was fascinated to learn that the Trilobites' multi-lens eyes were composed of calcite! Amazing!

    Looking forward to more discoveries...

  4. I have just received the book which accompanies the television series. It is very well laid out and informative. There is a foreward written by Sir David in which he explains his passion for fossil collecting and his desire to make a documentary series, charting the evolution of life. I take your point with regards to the use of CGI technology, however, I wonder what sort of series the BBC would have been able to produce if they had tackled this subject at the time that "Life on Earth" was first broadcast.

  5. Hi there from Down Under,
    since Anomalcaris is your favorite prehistoric predator, I thought you might be interested in a Japanese Plush toy I found at the Museum in Ueno and bought for my son (for Xmas)
    I later found where you can order them online, in many different sizes (from pillow to small)
    Although the pillow sized ones cost alot of Yen

    and they also have plush Giant Salamanders!