Bat­tle Cas­tle

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Sun­day, 7.30pm, SBS One Cas­tles aren’t ev­ery­one’s cup of hem­lock. On tour in Scot­land re­cently I suf­fered cas­tle fa­tigue and chose to sit by the wa­ter or in a nearby green meadow while my companions ex­hausted their in­fi­nite in­ter­est in these crum­bling old joints. How­ever, I must say that in this se­ries pre­sen­ter Dan Snow’s en­thu­si­asm, as he un­rav­els the sto­ries of six of the world’s most fa­mous me­dieval cas­tles, is in­fec­tious. Snow also presents fas­ci­nat­ing back sto­ries not nor­mally found on the tourist trail. In tonight’s de­but he is not in Scot­land or France but in Syria, at Crac des Cheva­liers, pos­si­bly the might­i­est cas­tle built. The cas­tle was built by the Knights Hospi­taller, an elite or­der of Chris­tian war­rior monks in the 12th and 13th cen­turies, who de­signed it to guard against Mus­lim at­tacks dur­ing the Cru­sades. The se­ries also fea­tures par­tic­u­larly gory reen­act­ments of be­head­ings, im­pal­ings and the other atroc­i­ties that went on as me­dieval cas­tles were raided and de­fended, surely a value add. Next week we are off to France to visit Chateau Gail­lard in Paris. just a chem­i­cal, it’s an epic poem about life on Earth. Since the hu­man genome was de­coded 10 years ago, the codes of hun­dreds of other species have been un­rav­elled, in­clud­ing crea­tures from nearly ev­ery branch of the tree of life. It all be­gins in ther­mal pools east of Reyk­javik, Ice­land. Here we join Ja­cob Krist­jans­son as he digs about in what looks like mud that is ap­par­ently also full of bac­te­ria and ar­chaea — the lat­ter be­ing recog­nised as the old­est or­gan­isms on the planet. These lit­tle guys were all there was to life on Earth for the first bil­lion years, along with other sin­gle­cell or­gan­isms known as bac­te­ria. And wouldn’t you know, when sci­en­tists com­pared ar­chaea DNA with hu­man DNA they found that we share about 200 genes. We are so truly of this Earth.

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