Planet Of The Apemen Review: Not A Damn Dirty Ape In Sight

PLANET OF THE APEMEN: Thursday 23rd June, BBC1, 9pm

Planet Of The Apemen is an historical docu-drama, set 75,000 in the past it tells the story of one family of Homo sapiens forced to leave their homeland in search of water after super-volcano, Mount Toba, erupted, “on a scale that no human has seen before, or since.â€?

Our ‘heroes’ are a family of three Homo sapiens: father, mother and teenage son, whose expedition to find water is blighted by another species, Homo erectus; the earth’s top predator for over 1.5 million years. One expert describes Homo erectus as ‘wolves with knives’ thanks to their highly powerful physique and innovative use of tools to hunt and butcher prey. Unfortunately for Homo erectus, we were cleverer, and that’s essentially all Planet Of The Apemen has to say.

The drama side of the show really isn’t too enthralling: father is killed by big bad Homo erectus, son and mother face certain death until they meet an annoying old woman who teaches them some skills, and the three of them set off in search of the sea. Along the way they have a couple of run-ins with some homo erectus, but they always manage to outsmart them and eventually arrive, relatively unscathed at their destination. One Homo erectus tracks them all the way to the sea, but collapses and drowns when he gets there, for some unknown reason. The actors’ frequent slips from attempted cave-man style accent into the Queen’s English also does nothing to aid our suspension of disbelief.

However, the ‘science’ side is really quite interesting; various experts describe the differences between our two species and explain why, in the end Homo sapiens won out. Their points are illustrated with real-world demonstrations and interspersed with ‘90s info-graphics. Overall it’s an entertaining and mildly enlightening programme, probably worth watching if you chance across it, but certainly not worth searching iplayer for. Perhaps next week’s conclusion will be more exciting, when we will see Homo sapiens pitted against the notorious Neanderthals.