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Since the Second World War, when the BBC provided news and comfort for a nation in great peril, it has played a central role in British life and culture. That is why any proposals for radical change at the Corporation, or any sign that its standards might be slipping, deeply disturb its loyal admirers.

Dr Dee, Palace Theatre, Manchester<br/>The Crash of the Elysium, MediaCity UK, Salford<br/>Biophilia, Campfield Market Hall, Manchester

Damon Albarn's opera makes an ambitious attempt to resurrect the spirit of a once important Elizabethan courtier

The Week in Radio: Outlook for adultery in Birmingham excellent

News that the Shipping Forecast has been turned into a choral work for performance in Portsmouth Cathedral comes as no surprise. It is surely one of the great classics of radio. The incantatory rhythm, at once familiar and mysterious, as incomprehensible as Old English, as consoling as a Latin creed, has long inspired poets. Its heart-stopping phrases, "falling slowly", "precipitation within sight", seem to have no connection to our humdrum inland weather, where rain is either "useful" or "unfortunate" and whose forecasters are cheery or apologetic by turns as if personally accountable for the heavens. The Shipping Forecast's storms are never anthropomorphised. Its gales suggest distant peril, from which we can feel safe. Given that scarcely a week passes without the BBC holding some kind of listener survey, it's surely only a matter of time before we're asked our favourite radio programme and I'd guess the Shipping Forecast would be up there for many.

Minor British Institutions: National treasures

Our National Treasures are instantly identifiable but difficult of definition. They are mostly rather old, but there's more to it: Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley have been NTs for years, while David Beckham was finally ushered in at the Royal Wedding.

Sir David Attenborough: CGI confuses fact and fiction

Sir David Attenborough has warned that advances in computer graphics mean viewers can no longer tell what is real and what has been artificially generated in science documentaries.

First Night: The Tree Of Life, Cannes International Film Festival

Malick pursues his vision in a lyrical, baffling tour de force

Butterfly effect: Why Britain is suddenly all of a flutter

Three sodden summers brought many butterflies to the brink of extinction. But now Britain's most endangered species are making a comeback thanks to 2010's Indian summer and conservation efforts.

Pay attention, 007: Daniel Craig moves into Sir David Attenborough's territory

It will be hard to fill the mighty planet-traversing shoes of Sir David Attenborough, Britain's greatest broadcasting naturalist.

Charles Nevin: The sweet smell of success

Start the week: The Odor-Eaters National Rotten Sneakers Contest was won this year by a nine-year-old from Utah

It's a right carry on ... up the jungle

Explorer Benedict Allen reveals that nature documentaries are as tricksy as any other kind of filming, and we collude in the deceit

It's Your Round, Radio 4, Thursday<br/>David Attenborough's Life Stories, Radio 4, Friday

A Radio 4 panel show? Your rehab is almost complete, Mr Deayton

Last Night's TV: Madagascar/BBC2<br />A History of Ancient Britain/BBC2

It's a little early to say whether Outcasts is going to be a hit or a space turkey. If it's the latter then nobody's going to have to worry too much about exoplanet locations for science-fiction series, since it will have effectively scorched the Earth for at least the next five years. If it works, though, there's going to be something of a rush on for vistas on this planet that look like they're on another. Might I suggest an early provisional booking for Madagascar, a wondrously unfamiliar landscape that comes helpfully accessorised with an otherworldly ecology. More than 80 per cent of the species are found nowhere else on Earth, which helps to maintain the frisson of alienation, and what's more many of the animals even sound like they've been invented by a science-fiction writer. Anyone for the tenrec, a kind of elongated hedgehog that produces a litter of up to 32 tiny (and spiny) little tenrecs? And if that doesn't take your fancy what about the fossa, a giant tree-climbing mongoose with a pair of vampire fangs? Or the sifaka, a white lemur that gallops sideways through the undergrowth?

Mad about Madagascar

David Attenborough loves its exuberant wildlife, but this island in the Indian ocean has much more besides lemurs to offer, reveals Kate Eshelby

Twin-swapping raises odds on panda survival

A Chinese breeding centre has developed a remarkable technique that fools the mother, meaning many more animals survive

Open Jaw: Time to take a hard line on ski helmets

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Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
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Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

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Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

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Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
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Greece elections

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Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

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Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness