Despite the fact that the images range from great to downright unbelievable, this is perhaps not the single feature that makes this series unique. It is the way the story is told. There's of course the never-topped David Attenborough. But, because the story loosely unfolds around the evolutionary stages in the life of mammals (beginning with the platypus), AND at the same time manages to pull it off to show you the whole of the variety of mammals around the world without losing track of the scope of each episode, you get a real glimpse of what biodiversity means. Furthermore, the series really makes the case of evolutionary theory in a crystal clear way. The in and of itself very simple principle of evolution often gets misinterpreted, e.g. when one starts to think of evolution as having a 'goal'. Since the main issue here is the power to adapt of mammals, the focus is, more than ever, on the importance of the environment as the steering force towards either many specialized species or less generalists, continuously flowing from one mode to the other.
What's more, the series really makes it clear how evolution gradually has shifted from selection on the basis of innate predispositions, to selection on the basis of the ability to learn during the lifetime, which makes a species much more able to adapt itself to environmental pressures and, in the end, enables them to overcome them. And then, at the end of the series, which focuses on the great apes and, ultimately, us humans, the whole story draws together superbly. I wondered how they would pull it of: would they preach about impending doom due to humanity's estrangement of its own nature, or would they just sing the hosanna of this marvelous little zoo we live in? Instead, Attenborough avoids these pitfalls. On the one hand he makes it clear that our behaviour and the way we treat our planet is nothing but the very natural consequence of evolutionary pressures that, for the moment, have put us on top of the pyramid, and this in a relatively short span of time. On the other hand, he does suggest that, if it were only BECAUSE we top the pyramid, we do have to take care that this environment which is responsible for who and what we are doesn't crumble under the pressure of its own success-story. Maybe it's about time that we think about constraining our own numbers?
In short, this series is a must for anyone with even a passing interest in the very nature of life in all its diversity or anyone needing arguments to convince people of the why of caring for nature. I'll buy it as soon as it 's out. And I knew that from the third episode. A classic.