Pick of the week;Schools television

15th October 1999 at 01:00
From the whizz-bang, money-no-object, computer-generated graphics of the opening sequence, you know Millennium - a thousand years of history is going to be something special.

Filmed over two years and in 28 countries, BBC2's epic new series, produced by Jeremy Isaacs, condenses the past 1,000 years of history into 10 hours of spectacular television.

Using location footage, dramatisation and computer animation, each of the 10 one-hour episodes covers a single century, focusing on what the producers see as its dominant theme. So the series kicks off this Monday with the century of the sword, to be followed by centuries of the axe and the stirrup, through centuries of the compass, the furnace, and - our own time - the globe.

This is history from a global perspective, and such a panoramic picture of the past must necessarily use broad brush strokes. But Isaacs has avoided the temptation to cram too much in. Each programme homes in on five locations, providing a series of vignettes that allows a fine balance between the grand idea and fine detail. From the rise and fall of great civilisations, to the information that the world's oldest reputed restaurant is a bucket chicken house - it's all here, and in glorious colour.

Given suitable gravitas by the narration of Ben Kingsley, the story of how the "separate worlds became one world" eventually comes full circle, with the final episode predicting that in the 21st century, China with its population of one billion, will surely be, as it was in the 11th, a giant.

And the story of our shrinking world ends looking upwards, away from the planet's surface. Viewed from space the globe looks defenceless, the earth has been explored and the future of the world, and our own fate, is in our hands. "We know we must protect the planet or perish," it says.

Don't miss it.

Millennium- a thousand years of history BBC2 Mondays 7.10pm interactive on-line companion: CNN.com1000 educator's guide: http:turnerlearning.com millennium

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