Tropic of Cancer; Dolphins – Spy in the Pod

Tropic of Cancer is one of Simon Reeve’s travelogue series. In this one, originally from 2010, he travels around the world following the line of the Tropic of Cancer which is the northernmost boundary of the tropics. He starts in Mexico, then across the Atlantic to the north of Africa, followed by bits of Arabia then the south of Asia, finally ending up in Hawaii. Reeve’s programmes all have something of a similar style to them, and this was no exception – he shows you something beautiful, then explains how we (mostly the Western world, sometimes all of humanity) are fucking it up. Beautiful meaning sometimes the landscape, sometimes the wildlife, sometimes the people. But there’s always a dirty secret just around the corner. As styles go, it works for me – if you never saw the downsides it wouldn’t be a true picture of the place, ditto if you never saw the good things.

For all each episode was full of things to see or to think about I’ve ended up not quite sure what to say about it. Partly because it covers such a wide cross-section of the world, so it’s hard to be concise about it. He travels from jungles to deserts, from people living in abject poverty or war-torn regions to people living in luxury. He managed to film in at least a little bit of every country along the way, except for China which wouldn’t grant him entry. The only other country not to let him in was Burma, and he sneaked across the border there anyway to talk to some of the people being oppressed by the Burmese government. Even Saudi Arabia let him in, escorted by a suitable local guide (he always did have a local guide to show him places, but the Saudi one seemed particularly well chosen from a perspective of how her government wanted the country to be represented).

A good series to’ve watched, even if it’s a little dated now (it’s pre-Arab Spring, so the visits to Libya and Egypt were notably out of date).

Dolphins – Spy in the Pod is one of a collection of documentary series using cameras disguised as bits of the environment to get more candid footage of wild animals than you do when you have a cameraperson about. We’ve previously watched Polar Bear – Spy on the Ice (post) and Tiger – Spy in the Jungle (post). This is the weakest of the ones we’ve seen, sadly – too much “teehee look how clever we are, and aren’t we funny” and anthropomorphising the cameras. It felt less like candid footage of wild dolphins and more like dolphins curiously inspecting the weird plastic nautilus or turtle or whatever. We did watch both episodes tho, so it did OK as lightweight fluff entertainment.

Other TV watched this week:

Episode 1 of Travels with Vasari – Andrew Graham Dixon goes round Italy following the footsteps of Vasari who wrote one of the first art history books in the late Renaissance.

Episode 1 of Rule Britannia! Music, Mischief & Morals in the 18th Century – Suzy Klein talking about 18th Century British music and how it impacted and was impacted by the history of the time.

Episode 1 of Melyvn Bragg’s Radical Lives – two part series consisting of two biographies of notable English radicals.

Episode 1 of Tropic of Capricorn – Simon Reeve travels round the world following the Tropic of Capricorn.

Episode 1 of Lost Land of the Tiger – three part series about looking for tigers in Bhutan.