Last Night’s TV – How Earth Made Us

by Lynn Connolly

I have to say, geology is something that fascinates me; it always has. Geology Rocks as they say – ‘they’ being geology geeks primarily – and having the very personable and excitable Iain Stewart present this film was a very good plan.

He came across as having an unashamed love of geology, and it was entirely infectious. As he roamed deep caverns and wedged himself into frighteningly small places to see what was in there, I was all bated breath and nerves, rather quickly followed by wonderment at what nature can do.

But of course, as we’ve seen in Haiti, nature and all its wonders can turn on us planet dwellers. Gaia might be saying “get off my land” when she oversees the shifting of tectonic plates or issues forth blistering heat from subterranean fissures.

However, events in Haiti made this programme infinitely more topical than it might otherwise have been, which may well have attracted more viewers, and that can be no bad thing because it was very much worth watching.

We saw Iain in various locations across the world, trying to explain why it is that humanity seems “drawn” to fault lines, fissures and other holes in the earth. In Mexico, he bravely went into what is arguably the world’s most inhospitable and least welcoming cave system. He had to wear a cooling suit and carry an oxygen tank, for despite the beauty to be found in those caves, he would’ve died in minutes without that kit.

Much reference was made to the Minoans of Crete and their early influence on what geology has become. We also saw that in their spare time, they liked nothing more than a spot of bull-vaulting. As you do. There was one rather amusing moment for me when Iain asked, “How do you practise that?”

He looked so sincerely interested in how one might learn to use a bull’s horns as a kind of springboard; it was both charming and amusing. And actually, the element of self-deprecation was part of Iain’s charm as a presenter. He takes his subject very seriously of course but isn’t above having a laugh at it, and himself, too.

And that he’s brave isn’t an issue now that I’ve seen him clambering into the caves mentioned above and into abandoned mines and some seriously scary potholes. But his reward is in the flora that resides often miles beneath or into the earth’s crust. Beautiful arrangements of crystals and various growths of mineral deposits provided some awesome sights.

If you missed this show, you can see it on BBC’s iPlayer here, and it’s true… geology rocks.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.