Seven Ages Of Britain Review: Dimbleby Has Us Conquered
THE SEVEN AGES OF BRITIAN: Sunday 31st January, BBC1, 9pm ALERT ME
If Facebook had been around during Roman England, there might have been less painstakingly carved slabs to denote a conquered Britain and more status updates: ‘Got power over UK today, LOL.’
Luckily for this documentary, it wasn’t, and David Dimbleby tells us the story of Britain revealed through art. Think hand-made mosaics and 70 metre tapestries. Beat that, Warhol.
First we’re off to Italy, where Dimbleby meets two re-enactment blokes in steel armour who excitedly say, ‘fish and chips!’ when he tells them he’s from England. No resentment held there then. The presenter takes us round Rome’s famous landmarks the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Pantheon, which are visually stunning as well as historically poignant.
Next he’s in Turkey where lies the Figure of Brittania, which depicts Rome overthrowing Britain in stone form. David’s as passionate about this as he is about wearing pink shirts and white trousers… what a pro.
It’s lucky Dimbleby doesn’t mind a bit of traveling as before you know it he’s at The British Museum, London, where the best treasures from Roman Britain are kept. He gets particularly excited about a silver plate: ‘This is absolutely singing with life!’ He also takes us round a Sussex villa where we’re shown equally impressive mosaics. Just as well they didn’t have the internet – we might have been looking at a YouTube link of a Roman on a skateboard. Or something.
Highlights of the Anglo-Saxon era include Dimbleby attempting the language, as well as his section on the king’s royal burial ground in East Anglia, ‘He was surrounded by household goods and precious jewels – everything he’d need in the afterlife!’ Not exactly, as they ended up in a museum and in perfect condition.
We’re also shown the oldest complete bible in the world (made from the skin of 500 sheep), the oldest book in the English language as well as a 70 metre long tapestry illustrating William the conqueror’s invasion of England. It’s so impressive Dimbleby asks strangers in a tourist shop whether he can nick it – although he’d need a pretty big plane.
Overall a good start to the series, which is informative, interesting and contains just enough of the presenter’s eccentricities to keep things lively. Any philistines, look away now.