Last Night's TV: It's only rock and holes - but I like it

Earth: The Power of the Planet, BBC2; Imagine BBC1

Earth: the Power of the Planet isn't so much a science documentary as an extended adventure holiday for its presenter, Dr Iain Stewart. In the course of the first episode, he abseiled into the mouth of an active volcano (only for extreme adrenalin junkies, this), scuba-dived into a tectonic seam in Iceland and whitewater rafted down a gorge in New Zealand. Apparently, "it's only when you're fighting the rapids that you can begin to understand how powerful the force of water can be", so we'll just have to take the latter as part of a hands-on research programme, rather than just a way to titillate a piece to camera. I don't know whether he's also the guy seen sky-surfing in the trail for next week's programme, but I'll be bloody impressed if he does a link while doing backward flips at 10,000 feet.

If you're allergic to the usual co-production bombast, all surging orchestral music and ridge-clipping helicopter shots, then this kind of frantic sexing-up will probably bring you out in hives. Dr Stewart himself barely utters a sentence without an exclamation mark attached to it, and the vocabulary of awe and wonder gets its familiar pounding, with words such as "extraordinary" and "wonderful" and "magnificent" coming round again and again, like rotating extras in a low-budget battle scene. That said, one can, for once, understand the anxiety. Earth: the Power of the Planet is about geology, so its subjects are not going to do anything cute, or eat one another in a dramatic way, or indulge in mating rituals. They're just going to sit there rockily, eroding at a rate that evades the time-lapse camera.

Except for volcanoes, of course, which gratifyingly unite the hard science of tectonics and plate subduction with the production aesthetics of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Hence the early visit to Erta Ale in the Afar region of Ethiopa, disappointingly unvolcano-like from the exterior, but cartoonishly satisfying inside, where a kettle of molten magma seethes and bubbles like something from The Simpsons. Dr Stewart's piece to camera didn't rise to the occasion, contenting itself with pure redundancy ("I'm standing on the edge of an active volcano right next to a pool of molten lava!"), but if his script was underpowered, Erta Ale certainly wasn't, offering a perfect model of plate tectonics in action, as plaques of cooled black lava scudded over the surface, tiny continents in motion. At a global level, the same process is still going on, and Earth: the Power of the Planet helpfully included a speeded-up prediction of general trends. Don't buy beach-front property in Florida if you're planning on a long-term investment, because in a couple of million years, it appears to bump into Namibia, where property prices aren't quite as buoyant.

"The cliche is that it's not a bubble till it bursts," said one of the talking heads in last night's Imagine..., How to Get On in the Art World, in which Alan Yentob reported on and contributed to a current boom in the contemporary art market by going shopping with 5,000 of his own money. This doesn't buy you a lot at the salesroom, as Yentob quickly found out. But when he visited the Frieze Art Fair in London, a kind of fine-art car-boot sale that now draws big dealers and big crowds, he fared rather better. The film began with a beginner's briefing on London's increasing centrality in the market for modern art, but perked up considerably when it became a buyer's guide, explaining the weird dynamics of a boom market where collectors are obliged to sell themselves to the dealers in order to get the more desirable pieces. Museums are top in the pecking order when it comes to purchases, because a museum acquisition will instantly add patina to a career. Serious collectors come second, because the dealer can at least be assured that his client's work will be keeping company with other A-list names, and the poor punter who wants something to look nice over the mantelpiece barely gets a look in. I would have quite liked an explanation of what kind of premium an attendant film crew and a job as the presenter of a BBC arts programme gives you, but that wasn't included in the explanation.

Yentob took advice from other collectors and an engagingly blunt art critic called Dave Hickey, who gives good interview. "The art over there, 98 per cent's shit, and that's about right," he said genially, "98 per cent of everything is shit." Yentob, hoping to put his finger on a bit of the 2 per cent that wasn't, eventually settled for a sculpture by a young British artist called Ryan Gander, which came in at a relatively reasonable 3,500. This seemed suspiciously low to me, given the prices he'd been quoted everywhere else, but perhaps he just got in at ground level. He bought it just in time, anyway: last week, Gander won a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award, a prestigious prize that will bump up his prices whatever happens to the bubble.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser