Pole to Pole (Michael Palin) (1992)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 5-May-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Interviews-Cast-Michael Palin
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 394:24 (Case: 422)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (23:18)
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Roger Mills
Clem Vallance

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Michael Palin
Case ?
RPI $49.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Michael Palin, a founding member of the Monty Python comedy group, has now made 6 of these travel based documentary series for the BBC. All of them have been well worth watching and most of them (including this one) have been exceptional television. It is his natural gift for comedy which has really lifted these series above the ordinary and his uncanny ability to get along with the various people he meets. This one was actually the second series made in 1991, however, it has only just been released on DVD in Region 4.The other 5 are:

    Pole to Pole follows Michael as he attempts to travel from the North Pole to the South Pole, along the 30 degree east line of longitude (as much as possible), using ground transportation unless there is no option but to fly. This incredible journey took him nearly 6 months to complete and he encountered many difficulties along the way. The timing of the trip was quite incredible, travelling through the USSR just weeks before the coup occurred which toppled the Soviet system, arriving in South Africa just after apartheid was finished, walking straight into a war in the Sudan and arriving in Zambia just as a dictator lost the first free election in many years. With all of that going on around him it is amazing that he made it at all.

    The show includes eight episodes of approximately 50 minutes each spread over three DVDs. They are:

  1. Cold Start - Michael flies into the North Pole and then goes via snowmobile through Spitsbergen, by ship to mainland Europe, to the world's most northerly city, Tromso, Norway by ship down the fiords, car to Lapland and then by bus into 'Finland, Finland, Finland', through to Helsinki and on into the Soviet Union via Estonia en route to Leningrad. Along the way he has a sauna, visit Santa Claus and meets a Lenin impersonator.
  2. Russian Steps - A very funny episode which features the results of Michael Palin on too much bootleg vodka. He travels south from Leningrad to Novgorod, takes the train to Kiev via Chernobyl, takes a barge down the river to Odessa on the Black Sea and then a ferry to Istanbul. In between he tries to go shopping in Russia with great difficulty, nearly gets baptised and has a mud bath.
  3. Mediterranean Maze - Michael spends time in Istanbul, then crosses to Asia Minor, takes the train across Turkey, the ferry to Rhodes and then on to Cyprus. After some troubles he arrives in Africa and heads for Cairo follows by Luxor and a Nile cruise past the Valley of the Kings and the temple at Karnak. Finally he heads south into the Sudan.
  4. Shifting Sands - After arriving in Sudan and finding the place very confusing he boards a very intermittent and unreliable train south towards Khartoum across the Negev Desert. After arriving in Khartoum he find out that they will not be allowed to continue via their planned route due to a civil war and they are forced to head into Ethiopia. The trip to Ethiopia is truly incredible with 4WDs attempting to traverse virtually impassable roads through dangerous territory.
  5. Crossing the Line - They cross into Ethiopia and face another nightmare journey through an area full of militants and rebels. Once they arrive in Addis Ababa, they find that the communist regime has just been ousted and end up having to hitchhike south toward Kenya where they have arranged to meet someone. They cross the equator and visit a school where Michael made a movie many years before. Once in Kenya civilisation returns and they go on safari in the Masai Mara National Park.
  6. Plains and Boats and Trains - Michael goes hot air ballooning and crosses into Tanzania and head west towards Lake Tanganika, finally heading back towards their originally planned route. They take a boat down Lake Tanganika and visit places such as the meeting place of Dr Livingston and Stanley, finally ending up in Mpulungu, Zambia.
  7. Evil Shadow -  Michael visits a witchdoctor who tells him he has an evil shadow. They head south toward Zimbabwe and visit an English style estate called Showa. They then visit Victoria falls and Michael goes on an ill-fated white water rafting trip. They visit Bulawayo and then on into South Africa. He visits a gold mine, Johannesburg, Soweto and then takes the Blue Train to Cape Town. They receive bad news that the ship they were relying on to get them to Antarctica cannot fit them on.
  8. Bitter End - With their planned approach to Antarctica ruined, Michael has to fly to South America in order to take a plane from the southern end of Chile to Antarctica. After spending time at Patriot Hills, a camp in Antarctica, a small plane takes them on to the pole. Along the way they meet a Japanese man who plans to ride a motorbike to the pole.

    An incredible journey and a wonderful TV series. If you enjoyed any of the others and have not seen this one, it is a must.

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

Transfer Quality


    The video quality is decent but you cannot get excited. It is early 1990s television and it shows.

    The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was reasonably clear and sharp throughout although there was grain which was worse in some scenes than others, but was always present. There was no evidence of low level noise. The shadow detail was fairly poor with most areas of shadow being pretty impenetrable.

    The colour was fine but a little dull and lifeless. No worse than you might expect with television of this age and better than some I have seen.

    Artefacts were quite common, with a large selection of specks, flecks and hairs on display. These were quite regular but never terrible. Aliasing was present from time to time such as in the credits of each episode and on car grilles, blinds and amusingly zebras! There was one section during Episode 2 where the bitrate dipped and macro-blocking became evident in the backgrounds. This occurred around the 25:00 minute mark, which coincidentally was also near the layer change on Disc 1. I also noticed some edge enhancement here and there, which although present was not overly intrusive.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired. They were clear and easy to read but significantly summarised from the spoken word. Sometimes whole sentences were missing. Despite this they certainly give you the general gist of what was being said.

    The layer changes occur in the middle episodes of Disc 1 and 2, specifically at 23:18 in Episode 2 and 25:55 in Episode 5.

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


    The audio quality is fine, doing all that is required for a show of this type.

    This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync. Considering the dialogue driven nature of a documentary this is the most critical audio ingredient.

    The music used is by Paddy Kingsland and isounds fairly dated in 2005.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menus were simple including music, stills and the ability to select individual episodes and subtitles.

Interview with Michael Palin (30:19)

    Recorded recently this interview in quite illuminating about how serious the problems they encountered on this trip were. He discusses the success of the original series and how he ended up making this one, what they learnt from the first one, the changes that occurred as he was travelling through various countries, some funny anecdotes including the epilogue to the scene with the homemade vodka, the injuries and other nasty moments and the response to the series. Definitely worth watching and an interesting addition to the set.

R4 vs R1

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

    This set has been released in both Region 2 and Region 4 in exactly the same format. It does not seem to be available in Region 1.


    A wonderful travel series by Michael Palin in the tradition of his 5 other travel series. This one was actually the second one made in 1991 but has only just been released on DVD. This time he spent six months travelling from the North Pole to the South Pole.

    The video quality is decent but nothing special.

    The audio quality is fine.

    The set has a contemporary interview with Michael Palin as its sole extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews
impulsegamer.com - Andrew B

Comments (Add)
Inaccurate - grug (there is no bio.)
Re: Innacurate - Anonymous