The Trials of Life (1990– )
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Friends and Rivals 

Many animals find it advantageous, essential even, to live in social groups where recognising friends and respecting the power of rivals is vital. However there are problems: inevitable ... See full summary »


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Episode credited cast:
David Attenborough ... Himself


Many animals find it advantageous, essential even, to live in social groups where recognising friends and respecting the power of rivals is vital. However there are problems: inevitable squabbles over food, disputes over nesting places and arguments over mates. Written by Enzedder

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Release Date:

28 November 1990 (UK) See more »

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Friendship and rivalry
30 January 2018 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

David Attenborough is nothing short of a national treasure. He may apparently dislike the term, but it is hard to not say that about such a great presenter who has contributed significantly to some of the best programmes (of the documentary genre and overall) the BBC has ever aired/produced.

It is really hard picking favourites, let alone a definite favourite, among what Attenborough has done because he has done so many gems, it is the equivalent of trying to choose your favourite ice cream flavour or your favourite operatic role (for examples) and finding you can't pick. 'The Trials of Life' may not be quite one of Attenborough's best or most ground-breaking, but is nonetheless another must-see gem of his and while the animals here face trials the main feeling the viewer has watching is awe. It is far from a trial for us. Everything that one loves about Attenborough documentaries is here in 'The Trials of Life', so it is hard not to reiterate when the strengths are exactly the same as with his other work.

All the episodes of 'The Trials of Life' are treasures. "Friends and Rivals" is not an exception, with a subject that is every bit as relevant and easy to identify with to a human than it is to an animal. A subject that is handled in a way that transfixed and illuminated.

First and foremost, "Friends and Rivals" looks amazing. It is gorgeously filmed, done in a completely fluid and natural, sometimes intimate (a great way of connecting even more with the animals), way and never looking static. In fact much of it is remarkably cinematic with some of the shots being unique for a documentary series, making one forget that it is a series. The editing is always succinct and smooth and the scenery of all the continents is pure magic.

The music score fits very well, never overly grandiose while never being inappropriate.

Again, like so many Attenborough nature/wildlife documentaries, "Friends and Rivals" fascinates, teaches, moves, entertains and transfixes. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of the known ones and the unknown, some facts being familiar to us while also dealing with very complex and very much relevant issues with tact.

Narration by Attenborough helps significantly. He clearly knows his stuff and knows what to say and how to say it. He delivers it with his usual richness, soft-spoken enthusiasm and sincerity, never talking down to the viewer and keeping them riveted and wanting to know more.

It's not just visually beautiful and informative. The animals are wide in personality, likewise with the episode's wide emotional range ranging from humour, tension and pathos. Found myself really caring for what we're told, the animals and their trials.

Like much of Attenborough/BBC's other work, "Friends and Rivals" doesn't feel like an episodic stringing of scenes, but instead like the best nature documentaries it feels like its own story and journey, with real, complex emotions and conflicts.

Concluding, wonderful episode as to be expected. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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