February 11th, 2010

never there

Making of Modern Britain; Sahara with Michael Palin

We decided we'd start the evening with Andrew Marr's Making of Modern Britain, coz it was likely to be depressing viewing. This episode covered just 4 years - the First World War. And it was every bit as grim as we'd thought it would be. The sheer scale of the death & destruction, so much of it unnecessary even if you thought the war was necessary in the first place. Like the story of the Captain who'd worked out that if they went over the top when their orders said & headed in the direction they were supposed to, then they'd die. So he talked to his superiors, showed them his scale model & explained his reasoning ... and they got sent anyway, orders are orders. And they all died. Without doing anything useful, just died. And the level of incompetence from the leadership was staggering too - I mean, I know it was a new type of war & obviously they prepared based on lessons from their last conflict, but once it wasn't working it seemed like they just carried on. And screwed things up more directly too, like the Gallipolli campaign which sounded like it had been a clusterfuck from conception onward. And of course in retrospect the whole thing is even more of a senseless waste, coz it only took 30-odd years before it all went to hell again.

Then we had a break for xmas cake (we had a mini one in the hamper from my brother that we hadn't eaten yet) and a bit of a cheer up. And onto programme two - the much more light-hearted Sahara with Michael Palin. Unfortunately we'd not noticed it was on until episode 2, so we had to start there. In this one he was travelling from Senegal to Timbuktu (well, nearly), so covering a lot of the same ground in reverse that the last episode of the Lost Kingdoms of Africa had. Although filmed several years earlier & with a very different style to it ;) I wasn't convinced at first that it wasn't going to be on the wrong side of the line between entertaining & cringe-worthy and a few bits (the nightclub in Dakar for instance) definitely were. But overall it was a fun & entertaining watch. With some more serious subjects touched on enough to know they were there, like female circumcision and the fact that Dakar is the place that a lot of African slaves were transported from. Not quite sure how come Michael Palin gets to travel around asking people personal questions & have it received with such humour, tho ;) It was weird watching this so soon after the other programme though, coz we got to see the Dogon people again, with some similar footage (of the funeral dances) just a different slant on it.