When you think about it, humans have achieved some pretty remarkable things in a relatively short space of time. New big budget documentary series Origins: The Journey of Humankind celebrates how homosapiens have gone, in the words of excitable host Jason Silva, from “swinging tree to tree, naked apes on a rock floating in space to walking on the surface of the Moon”. And it all starts with fire.
The first episode of Origins demonstrates how fire transformed the fate of humans, our power to make it separating us from the other animals on the planet. We’re not just told this, instead we’re shown a recreation of ancient humankind in scenes that have the production qualities of your average episode of Vikings.
Approaching human history almost as if it were the latest must-see premium drama, this eight-part series treats key developments as plot twists and cliffhangers in the story of our species – and it’s impossible not to get swept up in the excitement. Silva’s enthusiasm is infectious as he connects the dots between the key factors that have driven our evolution.
Factors like medicine or, as Silva puts it, “the magic that allowed us to cheat death”. The second episode of Origins looks at how our mastery of medicine has developed through the centuries, from an era when it was viewed as a mystical art to more recent times when it became a bona fide science. What’s interesting, though, are what lessons we can learn from the generations that came before us and the cures they derived from the natural environment. Just like on that show you’ve been binge-watching, the flashbacks are key.
Subsequent episodes examine the roles of commerce, communication, war, construction, exploration and invention in the story of life on Earth, each factor playing its part in the advancement of civilisation. By the end of the series, you'll have a complete picture of, well, pretty much everything that has happened up until now, and how humankind has survived and thrived.
Watch Origins: The Journey of Humankind on Saturdays at 7:35pm on SBS and SBS On Demand: