The Weekend's TV reviewed: Wonders of Life, Sun BBC2
Wild Arabia, Fri BBC2

The on-screen labels that Wonders of Life employs give it an encyclopaedic authority

It may not come as news to female readers that men are wetter than women, but I’ll confess that it came as a bit of a surprise to me.

I learned this fact from Professor Brian Cox, recently nominated as successor by the incumbent Pope of Scientific Pantheism, David Attenborough, and thus not a man whose pronouncements are to be lightly questioned. Though strictly speaking he didn’t actually pronounce it at all – this detail appearing in one of those curiously satisfying on-screen labels that Wonders of Life employs to give its images a twist of encyclopaedic authority. The scene was a Mexican town and the footnotes ran as follows: adult female 55 per cent water, adult male 60 per cent water. Male supremacists hoping to give a positive spin to this odd anomaly may point out that the human brain is 77 per cent water. Feminists hoping to counter them may like to know that  a dog is 70 per cent water and a baby 85 per cent.

In the last of his series, Cox addressed himself to what makes the planet home, not just to organisms advanced enough to make five-part television programmes about the mysteries of life but to everything else as well, including the microbial descendants of our common ancestors among the Prokaryotes. And water was one of the most critical components. Extremophiles have carved out a kind of life without sunlight or oxygen – two of the other elements of homeliness that make the planet so congenial to us – but nothing, according to  Cox, had managed to do without water. And, as in preceding episodes, his explanation was a captivating combination of introductory-level chemistry and physics and reverence for the facts of the world. He may have dispensed with God as  an explanatory necessity in his cosmology, but the strain you can hear in the background is “All Things Bright and Beautiful”.

Apparently, the really clever trick that made the planet habitable for us is not easy to replicate.  As anyone even slightly versed in repudiating the arguments of  creationists should know, flight and eyesight – notional stumbling blocks to evolutionary theory – have actually evolved in a number of ways over the years. But life has to date only come up with one form of oxygenic photosynthesis, the process that means we actually have something to breathe. Back there, in the mists of time (I think water was a precondition), some Bacterial Eve put together two molecular machines that had previously been unconnected, and the greening  of the planet could really begin. Tellingly, Cox closed the series with a reading from Genesis by one of the Apollo 8 astronauts. I think by the end he felt his own creation  narrative had nothing to fear from a scriptural predecessor.

That life can get by with very little water was demonstrated by Wild Arabia on Friday night, a new series that supplies more evidence for the tenacity of the evolutionary process, which can establish outposts of vitality in the least hospitable surroundings. Attractions included the horned viper, which looks like the Genesis serpent personified, and something called the sandfish, a polished kind of lizard that can disappear into the sand as cleanly, and quickly, as Tom Daley entering a pool. I was also impressed by the external scent organ of the scorpion, a kind of broom affair that it sweeps over the sand to detect its prey.

As usual, the pictures are extraordinary but the prose is a bit more difficult to take, alternating as it does between bombast and misapplied cliché. Describing the escape strategies of  the jerboa the narrator said this: “He has one last trick up his sleeve... hairy feet!” Not really up his sleeve, surely, even if jerboas wore jackets? Just once it might be nice to see the “making of” sequence that now concludes many natural-history films feature someone sweating away at a word processor and trying to get the commentary to match the quality of the images.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable