Fitting the history of the world into eight hour-long programmes was always going to be a challenge, so did Andrew Marr and the BBC manage to pull it off? Well, not really.
I had been looking forward to the show; the BBC are well known for their documentaries like Planet Earth and Coast. Sadly, The History of the World lets it down. For a start, it isn’t really a history of the world, as it skips most of time, and focusses on the history of 70,000 years of mankind. I accept that there is a lot of history that can’t possibly be squeezed into eight hours.
Episode one focusses on our ancestors’ migration out of Africa, spreading throughout the world, up until the start of civilisations like the Egyptians and the Minoans of Crete.
It started well, with Andrew in his well-pressed shirt and trousers showing us hand prints in caves in the south of France, but sadly it was downhill from there. We were treated to some ‘dramatic’ re-enactments, including a man trying to save his wife from drowning in the Yellow River in China, and an Egyptian scene like Jeremy Kyle with a man on trial for tomb raiding, assault, and sleeping with his colleague’s wife and daughter. My personal favourite was our African ancestors crossing a narrow stone bridge out of Africa in a CGI scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Lord of the Rings.
The whole show feels a bit dumbed down to appeal to a wider audience, and with so little time to fit in so much, they have too much reliance of these long re-enactments and CGI, rather than focussing on the history.
I won’t be in much of a rush to watch next week’s episode (The age of empires and Alexander the Great) unless they cut down on the acting, but from the look of the clip, I don’t hold much hope.
Andrew Marr’s History of the World is on BBC1, Sundays at 9:00pm
Watch Episode 1 on BBC iPlayer here