Unlike National Geographic's 'Darwin's Darkest Hour', also made for the centennial year of the publication of 'On the Origin of Species', this three-part TV series treats its viewers as adults. It paints a convincing picture of how Darwin's theory was shaped by his experiences on the voyage of the Beagle, his studies at Downe House and correspondence with friends and colleagues. Unlike other dramas and documentaries, this one gives ample time to the vital roles of Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley, Alfred Wallace and Charles Lyell in motivating, criticising and publicly defending Darwin's work.
This is an Australian production, so the first episode understandably dwells a little longer than necessary on the importance of Darwin's visit to Australia and New Zealand. As a result, the vital clues Darwin found in South America and Galapagos are underexposed. On the other hand, the makers take ample time for the critical steps in the development of Darwin's ideas back in England, including his fascinating but odious experiments with barnacles.
The acting is fine, though there's a hint of an Australian accent in some of the characters. The landscapes that shaped the work of Darwin and his friends are beautifully filmed, and the music is stirring without becoming a distraction. Evolutionary writers and scientists offer interesting tidbits between the scenes. Overall, a job well done.
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