First Life with David Attenborough

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
First Life with David Attenborough TV Poster Image
Smart journey through prehistoric life is great for teens.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

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Positive Messages

Although it doesn’t delve into the topic of conservation, the show’s beautiful scenery from far corners of the world does inspire hope that the planet’s diverse regions will continue to exist. The documentary is rooted in the evolutionary theory, and Attenborough presents as fact what he believes are concrete conclusions about the lineage from single-celled bacteria to modern mammalian -- and human -- life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Attenborough is a model of studious curiosity. Although he’s an expert himself, he happily assumes the role of student when he’s around other scientists who share their knowledge with him.


A few computer-generated scenes of prehistoric creatures killing and digesting prey.


A segment of the show discusses the evolution of sexual reproduction, but the content is limited to simple organisms like coral, which mix genetic material by simultaneously releasing eggs and sperm into the water to mix and form new life forms.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this fascinating documentary takes viewers on a whirlwind tour of billions of years’ worth of evolution, introducing them to creatures that emerged during turning points in the anthropological history of the planet and drawing connections between them and modern life. In other words, the host presents as fact what some might believe to be contestable scientific claims of the origins of human life. Controversy aside, the show is a stunning collection of scientific data, fossil evidence, and recent theories made possible by state-of-the-art CGI, which is used throughout the documentary. It’s a worthwhile tour for families, but it’s best appreciated by teens who can process the weighty scientific topics.

User Reviews

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Adult Written bylennylynx April 9, 2013

Is Any Form Of Life Really "Simple"

I watched the First Life with David Attenborough.
Once again he refers to "the simple cell" and how it evolved into advanced life. It is a fact that s... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In FIRST LIFE WITH DAVID ATTENBOROUGH, renowned natural scientist Sir David Attenborough takes viewers on a stunning journey across the globe as he explores the origins of modern life. Traversing the continents to visit some of the world’s most revealing fossil beds, Attenborough meets with local anthropology and biology experts to create a picture of life as it evolved from single-celled bacteria to complex predatory land-dwellers -- and eventually to the incredible diversity we know today.

Is it any good?

Attenborough’s journey is one of truly epic proportions, both on a geographical and on a historical scale. His extensive travels around the world to gather data and witness evidence for himself remind viewers of the grand scope of evolution -- that each of us descended from microscopic organisms and are a mere part of a process that’s billions of years old. The concepts are mind-boggling, but Attenborough masterfully condenses a lifetime of knowledge into this fascinating, surprisingly comprehensible documentary.

Genius host aside, the show’s best feature is its use of state-of-the-art CGI, which breathes life into the very fossils Attenborough and the other experts have unearthed. Thanks to these lifelike scenes of prehistoric existence, viewers get a real sense of the atmosphere at pivotal points in the planet’s history. All of this makes for superb family viewing, but the subject matter is meant for viewers who can grasp the concepts themselves -- namely teens -- since younger kids won’t have the patience for the lengthy scientific lectures.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about evolution. Do you believe the scientific claims about the origins of human life? What compelling evidence exists to support it? Does any evidence that you know of debunk it? Do you think it will ever be proven or disproven for certain? What amount of evidence would be needed for that to happen?

  • Did this documentary change your views on conservation or scientific research? Much of the fossilized evidence scientists collect comes at the expense of ancient rock formations. Is this a good trade-off? How are limits on research established? Who calls the shots about when preserving nature takes precedence? How far do you think they should go?

  • Do you think the media serves an educational purpose? How much of what you see on TV could be considered educational? What other shows have you seen that teach you something? Can TV ever be used as a teaching tool? If so, how? 

TV details

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