Magazine article The Spectator

Cover Your Ears

Magazine article The Spectator

Cover Your Ears

Article excerpt

Walking With Monsters (BBC1, Thursday) is an astounding production, making Walking With Dinosaurs look as homely as Animal Hospital. Gosh, there were some horrible beasts around 530 million years ago, and they have all been lovingly recreated so that they look as real as the cat on your sofa, if more predatory.

You do wonder just how accurate the beasts are; I know that scientists these days reckon they can reconstruct a fish the size of a bus from a couple of fossilised scales, but even so liberties must have been taken.

In a sense it doesn't matter, and the way the show was presented seemed to acknowledge that. The commentary, read by Kenneth Branagh in a doom-laden voice, would have been apt for a 1950s horror film: 'Strange and savage creatures fight a ruthless battle to rule the earth!' he intoned. (No, they didn't, they were trying to get fed. Ruling the earth was the last thing on their minds. ) 'This is life's forgotten story, an epic war for our world -- a war between monsters!' The whole was accompanied by strident, look-behind-you music, which usually comes at the point where the escaping prisoners have found motorbikes and are racing to keep ahead of the pursuing Nazis.

'Their arthropod enemies have also been evolving, and are now ready for -- Round Two!' says Branagh. I take the point, but this was really anthropomorphism only one step more grown up than Finding Nemo. It's the hectoring tone you hear on Sky Sports 27, when they're trying to persuade you that Torquay v. Wrexham is worth watching. I longed for the soft, reassuring voice of David Attenborough, who at least realises that his creatures are animals and not rejects from the World Wrestling Federation. Or even Rolf Harris: 'Now this chap has jaws the size of a pick-up truck.

Hello, little fella!' I thought the images were wonderful, but the soundtrack put me in mind of the Japanese film Godzilla vs King Kong; you enjoyed the fight without caring too much who won.

It did produce some powerful images.

The sight of a hynerpeton, who apparently resembled a cuddly toy crocodile, thinking it had made it to the safety of dry land, only to find that a gigantic fish could flipper itself on to the beach and grab it from behind, reminded me irresistibly of politics, or more precisely Michael Cockerell's new film, How To Be Tory Leader (BBC2, Saturday). Many politicians, including Anthony Eden, John Major, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, must have felt much like the hynerpeton, savaged from behind by the likes of Norman Tebbit and Michael Portillo (Mark I Portillo, that is, not the caring New Man we see today. …

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