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Rise of the Continents

Rise of the Continents

Sun Jun 9, 9-10pm, BBC2

By Adam Lee Davies
Series one, episode one
As Tom Waits so memorably reminded us, there’s a world going on underground, and gung-ho geologist Professor Iain Stewart’s new four-part series is here to fill out the picture of not only what exactly is going on under our feet, but why there’s anything even happening at all.

Africa, naturally enough, is the focus of this first episode, and Stewart has a rare old time flitting from the Pyramids to a Sierra Leone diamond mine to peeking over the Victoria Falls – literally and somewhat alarmingly kneeling down in the surging water and peeking over the precipice – to chart Africa’s formation and the rollover effects it has had on the continents wildlife.

Stewart, as ever, puts his case with the rough, boisterous energy of an anecdotal lecture delivered amid a rugby scrum, and invests his slow-moving subject with real verve and urgency, with the closing section on Africa’s uncertain geological future playing out like a Michael Crichton thriller without ever resorting to Channel 5-style scaremongering.

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