Paul Olding




Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Life and Death






Watch Behind-the-Scenes Clips


1. What is the film all about?

2. Highlights of filming?

3. What did Andrew Marr find surprising?

4. Any difficult times during filming?

5. Filming on the beach in Argentina



Film Trailer







Andrew’s Daily Mail Article




Reviews from the Newspapers


“…excellent series…”

“4 stars”

“…accessible, wry and unapologetically erudite it is both

scientifically and televisually a (Dar)win-(Dar)win situation…”

“…fascinating journey…”

“…a dazzling variety of settings and costumes…”

“…fetching outfits…”








3rd International Nature

Film Festival


(Sept 2009)





Planet in Focus

Toronto, Canada

(October 2009)





Vedere la Scienza


March 2010







Science Film Festival

Goethe Institut, Bangkok

Summer 2010







Shortlisted for ABSW awards





The Story Begins



2009 sees the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s book ‘On the Origin of Species’. As you might expect, there is going to be a whole year of Darwin stuff on the tv. BBC2 has a three part series presented by Andrew Marr taking a slightly different perspective on the whole Darwin story.


In my episode (3rd in series), we see how Darwin realized that the Natural World is intricately interconnected, exploring the relationships between living species, and between the living and the dead.


Our journey begins on a beach just east of Bahia Blanca in Argentina. It was here in October 1832 that Darwin encountered his first fossils, the giant bones of an extinct mammal species. This got him thinking about the nature of extinction, not just how, but why. Contrary to the belief at the time, Darwin found evidence that these giant beasts had not been slain in some catastrophic Biblical deluge. So why were they no longer alive?


Heading off on horseback to explore the Argentine Pampas, Darwin encounters the local wildlife. But as he tucks into a fine supper of roasted Armadillo, he releases that the bones left on his plate look very similar to the giant bones of the extinct species he had found at the beach. Could the living forms be somehow related to the long since dead?













Photo Album


Filming in Argentina - October 2008




Andrew on the Beach

East of Punta Alta





Filming the fossil cliffs





Close Ups








The crew on the beach








Dr Teresa from the Darwin Museum









Filming a fossil mammal bone in situ




Fossil Mammal Bone




Andrew and the Fossil we found









Driving across the Pampas





Sunrise in the Sierra de la Ventana





Tres Picos


























Andrew and Horse





Paul and Horacio the Gaucho




Ernesto helps with the camera














Tripod on Horse




Andrew Marr







The Story Continues



Since returning from Argentina, we filmed in the UK. At the Natural History Museum in London where a significant chunk of Darwin’s fossils are kept. At Kew Gardens where we explored how Darwin came up with his dangerous idea and how he shared his secrets with Joseph Dalton Hooker, Darwin’s confidante (and later director of Kew) and the rush to finish Origins when Alfred Russel Wallace came up with the same idea whilst suffering from Malaria in Indonesia. At the Crossness pump house in Thamesmead, we explore the effects of the industrial revolution on humanity’s ability to drastically change the environment. In a  woods in Surrey we explored the role of the great ecologist Charles Elton and how he took Darwin’s ideas and used them to understand invasive species. To a farm in Sevenoaks to tell the story of Rachel Carson and Silent Spring. To Bowerchalk in Wiltshire to talk about James Lovelock and his Gaia theory. And to Down House in Kent to round things off, talking about Darwin’s most popular work during his lifetime, a book on earthworms.


Then we went to St Lucia to bring the story bang up to date. We explore the current global threat to coral reefs and tropical rainforests and solutions that Darwin himself is helping us to come to terms with.





Filming In the UK - Winter 2008




Under the gaze of the BIG man




With the Megatherium






In the forest








Filming at Crossness Pump House




Ron the Grip













Jeremy DoP













Filming at the Farm








Filming in St Lucia – January 2009





Filming the coral





Andrew doodling




Andrew and the Pitons








Filming in the Rainforest





Filming from the helicopter




Filming from the boat

















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All Images copyright Paul Olding 2008 or BBC