The First Eden (1987)

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Released 6-Feb-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 217:37
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By None Given

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring David Attenborough
Case Slip Case
RPI $39.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

Sir David Attenborough has been making documentaries about the natural world for 50 years which is an incredible record. If you also consider that he was also a senior executive at the BBC and responsible for overseeing the introduction of colour television in Europe his career seems even more remarkable. But those things seem minor to me, and seemingly to the man himself, compared to the sheer quality of his documentary work and his own personal passion and possibly obsession with the subjects he explores. This DVD set includes one his lesser known series, 1987's The First Eden - The Mediterranean World & Man. This series takes a different approach to most of his series, which focus on the natural world only. He does this by exploring the history of the Mediterranean from both a natural and human perspective but more importantly investigating how one has affected the other. Most history series only focus o the human events however this one looks at longer term effects such as changes to plant & animal species in Spain due to Islamic conquest and long term changes to the ecosystem in the Mediterranean itself due to the Suez Canal being built.

There are four episodes (each of just under an hour) spread across two DVD5s. Each of the four episodes cover a specific period in history and the changes in the Mediterranean area during that time.

The four episodes are

  1. The Making of the Garden (54:37) Covers the formation of the various land masses, volcanoes, the creation of the various islands, bird migration, reptiles, the rise of mammals and the coming of early man.
  2. The Gods Enslaved (54:36) Focused on the ancient world and covers the taming of animals, the deification of animals especially in Egypt, olive oil, wine growing, fishing, hunting & the rise of Rome.
  3. The Wastes of War (53:56) This episode focuses on the middle ages especially on the various wars and their effects on the local environment. Includes horses, goats, camels, superstitions about animals and nature, the crusades and the spread of the plague. The best episode.
  4. Strangers in the Garden (54:28) This episode is about the 19th and 20th centuries including the Suez Canal and its ecological effects, fishing, hunting, the effects of pollution and the Aswan Dam project.

My only real criticism of this series is that due to being 20 years old many things which are referred to as 'even today' are actually 20 years out of date. This especially effects the final episode. On a positive note, Attenborough as always is an engaging and erudite host (& writer) who reveals many aspects of history which may not have occurred to people before. Also, the photography is first rate for its time. The discs are nicely packaged in a slipcover and foldout case.

The usual quality Attenborough production which has unfortunately dated somewhat in the last 20 years. Still a worthwhile watch though.

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Transfer Quality


The video quality is average which is to be expected for a TV production of this vintage.

The feature is presented in a 1.29:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

The picture was reasonably sharp, however, certainly showed its age in this regard. Shadow detail was OK but not great. There was MPEG grain and some macro-blocking in backgrounds and fast moving sequences presmuably driven by packing two hours of material onto a single sided disc.

The colour was fine for its age but somewhat pale and washed out.

From an artefacts perspective there were quite a few black blobs, some mild aliasing and edge enhancement.

There are subtitles on this disc in English. They are clear and easy to read.

There is no layer change.

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


The audio quality is fine.

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.Some scenes recorded in enclosed spaces showed quite a bit of echo. Hiss was also audible at times.

The music by Carl Davis is good but the instrumentation is dated.

The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


No extras. An updated interview with the man himself would have been a good addition.


The menu design is very simple. It is still and silent but functional.

R4 vs R1

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

This series is available in the same format in Region 2 and only as part of a box set in Region 1. Region 4 is the go here.


An interesting but dated David Attenborough series about the natural and man made history of the Mediterranean.

The video quality is average.

The audio quality is fine.

No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, July 19, 2008
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
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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