Trials of Life-The Complete Series (1990)

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Released 4-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Featurette-Making Of
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 359:43 (Case: 380)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Gunton

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring David Attenborough
Case Gatefold
RPI $79.95 Music George Fenton

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, end titles over highlights of series

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I'm sure most of us have at one time or another watched one of David Attenborough's many wildlife documentary series, all produced by the BBC's Natural History Unit. Indeed, they have become so ubiquitous that numerous comedy shows and even commercials have parodied David's conversation style and look/feel of the programmes.

    The Trials Of Life (1990) is a 12-episode series that eventually became the concluding set of what is now collectively referred to as "The Life Trilogy" - which started with Life on Earth (1978) and was followed by The Living Planet (1984). As with previous programmes, this documentary series showcases the incredible variety and diversity of plant and animal life on this planet.

    The series is subtitled "A Natural History of Behaviour." The episodes chronicles the entire cycle of life from birth, growing up, eating and homemaking, to mating and continuing the line. Each episode focuses on a particular part of the cycle of life.

    To try and integrate the episodes together into a more seamless whole on the discs, the opening and closing titles are omitted from all the episodes apart from the first and last on each disc, so that if you want you can watch an entire disc in one sitting (about three hours) or even the whole series (about 6 hours) if you are really keen.

Episode 1 (Arriving) (28:42)

    This is about the variety of ways in which new babies of all kinds are born into a world that can be very cruel and full of predators. It features:

Episode 2 (Growing Up) (27:49)

    This is about how various babies grow up to become adults, avoiding being eaten in the process. It features:

Episode 3 (Finding Food) (32:34)

    This is about how various animals and plants find nourishment. It features:

Episode 4 (Hunting and Escaping) (28:17)

    As we move up the food chain, there are increasingly violent ways of obtaining food. They include:

Episode 5 (Living Together) (30:25)

    This features various animals living together in partnership - sometimes for mutual benefit, but also through exploitation

Episode 6 (Home Making) (32:18)

    Various animals find different ways of making themselves feel "at home."

Episode 7 (Finding The Way) (31:33)

    Various animals use different senses and methods of finding their way around, even in the dark or in featureless environments.

Episode 8 (Fighting) (26:47)

    Various animals fight within the species for food, territory or breeding mates.

Episode 9 (Friends and Rivals) (32:40)

    The episodes starts with footage of an eagle, to contrast its solitary existence with that of other animals. This episode discusses how animals live in social groups.

Episode 10 (Talking To Strangers) (29:38)

    Various animals have developed ways of communicating with each other, as well as with others - friends as well as rivals, and even to humans!

Episode 11 (Courting) (28:24)

    Ahh - the things we will do for love, or to increase our chances of securing a hot date on a Saturday night!

Episode 12 (Continuing The Line) (30:10)

    The last episode is about how various animals transcend their own mortality and give birth to a new generation.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Track Listing

1. Arriving
2. Growing Up
3. Finding Food
4. Hunting and Escaping
5. Living Together
6. Homemaking
7. Finding The Way
8. Fighting
9. Friends and Rivals
10. Talking to Strangers
11. Courting
12. Continuing the Line

Transfer Quality


    This is a full frame transfer spread over two discs (the third disc features an extended "making of" featurette).

    The 12 episodes, each lasting just under half an hour, are divided 6 per disc. On each disc, they are grouped into two titles of 3 episodes each. Each episode is further divided into 3 chapters.

    Considering the age of the feature, and the fact that it was originally intended for broadcast TV, I was not expecting a great transfer. Still, I was a bit disappointed by the persistent and recurrent pixelization present throughout the entire programme. The pixelization is not really visible on an interlaced display, but quite noticeable on a large screen.

    There are various minor analogue video glitches, such as around Title 2 Chapter 7 (67:06), but no major artefacts. There are also some film artefacts including various scratches and marks, and moderate levels of grain. As a result, detail levels are mediocre. Colours are a bit under-saturated.

    There are two subtitle tracks: English and Greek. The accuracy of the English subtitles is high - I seldom noticed anything other than a completely faithful transcription of David's narration. Occasionally we get transcriptions of animal sounds.

    Both Disc 1 and 2 are single sided dual layered discs (RSDL). The layer changes occur between titles so are not normally observable. Disc 3 is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio track: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    The quality of the audio transfer is about average, consistent with the programme being produced for TV broadcast. Dynamic range has been compressed and extreme low and high frequencies attenuated away.

    David's narration is clear and easy to understand throughout, and I did not notice any issues with audio synchronization.

    The original music by George Fenton is orchestral and fits the programme well.

    Needless to say, there is no surround nor subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is only one real extra, but it is a substantial "making of" documentary occupying a disc of its own.


    Full frame and static.

Featurette-Making Of (49:18)

    This is also presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s), and is titled "Once More Into The Termite Mound with David Attenborough". It features David interviewing the various scientists whose research and knowledge have made the documentary possible, as well as techniques for how some of the shots were captured and interviews with the crew. We also get occasional outtakes and bloopers.

    Interviews include:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title does not appear to be currently available in R1.


    The Trials Of Life is another triumph in natural history and wildlife documentaries produced by the BBC and starring Richard Attenborough.

    The video quality is mediocre and somewhat pixelated.

    The audio quality is acceptable and TV-broadcast quality.

    The only extra is a 50-minute making-of featurette.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Friday, January 31, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RP82, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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Comments (Add)
These episodes are edited down - Nick H (do you have a spare 60 seconds-read my bio)
Yes, this is badly cut - a real disappointment -
Bad BBC! - DMM (yeah bio whatever)
Trials of Life must be a trial to watch - Simon