The Trials of Life

Watch The Trials of Life

  • 1990
  • 1 Season
  • 8.5  (66)

The Trials of Life is a nature documentary series produced by the BBC in 1990, narrated by David Attenborough and distributed by BBC Worldwide. The show features an in-depth look at the different stages of life that animals go through, namely birth, growth, and reproduction. The series showcases a diverse range of species from across the globe, from mammals and birds to insects and marine life.

The show's narrative is structured around the idea that every creature, big or small, faces a series of challenges during its life cycle. The program explores these challenges and presents intimate portraits of various species as they tackle them. Viewers are treated to an array of incredible visuals and footage that capture everything from a mother cheetah protecting her newborn cubs to thousands of penguins huddling together to withstand the Antarctic's freezing winds.

The series is broken down into twelve episodes, each dedicated to a specific stage of life. Episode one focuses on the birth of animals, showcasing the difficulty and trauma that accompanies it. We see a newborn elephant afraid to stand up as well as a newly hatched orphaned bird learning to fend for itself.

Episode two covers the marathon that is growth, or a creature's journey from birth to adulthood. We see a variety of examples of animals growing up in the wild, such as giraffes learning to run on wobbly legs, and baby monkeys struggling to keep up with their more agile elders.

Episodes three and four explore the world of courting and mating. The show offers a rare glimpse into the elaborate courtship displays of the bowerbird, as well as the violent battles between male elephant seals who are fighting for a mate.

In episodes five, six, and seven, the focus shifts to the challenges and techniques of parental care. We see a lioness' desperate search for her young cub, a mother polar bear struggling to find food for her cubs in a melting Arctic, and the comical attempts of male emperor penguins to keep their eggs safe while their female partners head out to sea.

Episodes eight and nine tackle the daunting task of finding food in the harsh environment. We see examples of various hunting strategies, from the serrated teeth of the shark to the poison dart frog's unique venomous skin. These episodes also emphasize the crucial role of cooperation within specific animal groups to ensure a successful hunt.

Episode ten, focuses on the unique ability of certain animals to adapt to changing environments. Creatures such as the desert tortoise, the chameleon, and the kangaroo rat exhibit remarkable adaptations that help them survive in the harshest of conditions.

Episodes eleven and twelve wrap up the series by taking a closer look at communication within the animal kingdom, both in terms of sounds and body language. We learn about the complex social structures of gorillas and elephants, and the intricate vocalizations of dolphins and birds.

Overall, The Trials of Life is a breathtaking documentary series that provides a rare and fascinating glimpse into the world of wildlife. The series not only highlights the struggles these creatures face but also showcases the wonder and beauty of their lives. Attenborough's narration and the carefully curated footage create a truly compelling and educational viewing experience that is exceptional in every way.

The Trials of Life is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (12 episodes). The series first aired on October 4, 1990.

The Trials of Life
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Continuing the Line
12. Continuing the Line
December 20, 1990
When it comes to sex, there seem to be no fixed rules in the animal world. Creatures will go to any lengths, it seems, to make babies. To continue the line is the final trial, and the ultimate triumph. In this exceptional wildlife documentary, David Attenborough looks at the many and varied ways that animals ensure their genes are passed to the next generation.
11. Courting
December 13, 1990
Animals have developed lots of techniques for impressing potential mates. Singing, offering presents, showing off their strength and beauty are all used. And it is no use being shy if you want to attract the opposite sex. In this revealing wildlife documentary, David Attenborough examines the vast array of techniques animals must use if they are to have a successful courtship and become a parent.
Talking to Strangers
10. Talking to Strangers
December 6, 1990
From the love song of fish which keeps people awake in San Francisco Bay to the world's loudest birds that scream through the rainforest, animal communication takes on many forms. David Attenborough takes a global look at these various methods in this compelling wildlife documentary. He discovers that not only what they say, but the way they say it, is vital in the natural world.
Friends and Rivals
9. Friends and Rivals
November 29, 1990
In the animal kingdom, recognizing friends and respecting the power of rivals is vital. In this intriguing wildlife documentary, David Attenborough examines the importance of these relationships. For baboons, it's not how big they are, but who they know that counts. Chickens need to know their place in the farmyard pecking-order while vampire bats share their grisly meals of blood.
8. Fighting
November 22, 1990
Fight or flee? Resist or surrender? Aggression over food, territory or mates is widespread in animals. But teeth, hooves and horns can cause injury and sometimes death. In this fascinating wildlife documentary, David Attenborough examines the various duels that occur in the animal world. From Zebras in the Serengeti to moose in Alaska, it's important for animals to choose their battles wisely.
Living Together
7. Living Together
November 15, 1990
For better or worse, many animals form surprising partnerships. Birds offer a personal cleaning service to rid their clients of itchy hangers-on, while hermit crabs enlist armies of stinging anemones as boxing gloves to repel octopuses. But not all lodgers are so welcome, as David Attenborough discovers in this entertaining wildlife documentary. Many are thieves while some are merciless killers.
6. Homemaking
November 8, 1990
The animal building trade has its fair share of master architects and subpar contractors too. In this engaging wildlife documentary, David Attenborough looks at the various strategies used in the construction of a home. Whether it's building a simple sandy burrow or a massive termite city, the aim of every animal architect is simple: to keep the elements and any unwanted visitors out.
Finding the Way
5. Finding the Way
November 1, 1990
Animals navigate with an accuracy that we humans have only recently achieved. In this seminal wildlife documentary, David Attenborough explores the variety of ways by which creatures find their way around the planet. A tiny ant makes a marathon journey over the scorching desert, while an albatross flies 800 miles over open ocean before returning with food for its chick.
Hunting and Escaping
4. Hunting and Escaping
October 25, 1990
Kill or die. Flee or perish. Such life and death duels are fought daily in the wild. In this legendary wildlife documentary, David Attenborough looks at the tricks used by hunter and hunted: traps and lures, warnings and deception, ambush and camouflage. These desperate battles between assassins and their victims have sharpened the skills of both in the art of pursuit and evasion.
Finding Food
3. Finding Food
October 18, 1990
The vital quest for food opens up an intriguing world of ploy and counter-ploy, exploitation and theft. In this classic wildlife documentary, David Attenborough looks at the many ways animals overcome the problem of finding sustenance. While plants try to defend themselves from unwelcome visitors, animals have devised numerous ways to break down their defenses.
Growing Up
2. Growing Up
October 1, 1990
Any parent knows about the problems of bringing up a child, and for animals it is no different. How do you protect your infant from daily hazards and help it survive its vulnerable years? In this groundbreaking wildlife documentary, David Attenborough discovers how an infant, from creches of bats to elephant babysitters, learns the skills it will need for life.
1. Arriving
October 4, 1990
Birth is the first dangerous step into a hazardous world. From egg-laying to live-bearing, animals employ an extraordinary variety of techniques to disperse their offspring. In this iconic natural history documentary, David Attenborough looks at the variety of birth in the natural world. The diverse strategies have a simple aim. To launch their young with a good chance of survival.
Where to Watch The Trials of Life
The Trials of Life is available for streaming on the BBC Worldwide website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch The Trials of Life on demand at Apple TV Channels and Amazon Prime.
  • Premiere Date
    October 4, 1990
  • IMDB Rating
    8.5  (66)