Prize blooms

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 March, 1999, 12:00am

The greatness of The Private Life Of Plants (World, 9pm) is not just the astonishing quality of the camerawork, or the breadth of the subject matter, but the way in which it allows us to admire a master at the peak of his powers.

David Attenborough talks us through the way plants forge mutually beneficial relationships with other plants, animals and insects this evening in Living Together. It is a remarkable lesson in cohabitation: there are corals that provide a stone protection of algae, in exchange for leftover food, the venomous rattan cane which hires armies of ants as bodyguards (as poor David finds out to his cost when he tries to poke the wretched plant.) Some plants are indiscriminately greedy and latch on to anything to scrounge food, others cannot thrive without a particular fungi.

Attenborough has conceived this series with such completeness that he scarcely seems to draw breath in between peering down a microscope at roots, and striding across a lichen lawn in the desert. Within seconds he is halfway up a spruce tree so tall that he needs to be strapped on and wear a hard hat.

He is shamelessly anthropomorphic, occasionally dryly funny and enviably economic in his choice of language.

If sometimes everything gets overly dramatic, it can usually be blamed on the incidental music.

The Long Way Home (World, 10pm), a documentary about concentration camp survivors, finally makes it to the small screen, and makes Michael Palin in Full Circle (Pearl, 10.45pm) seem uncomfortably chirpy in comparison. The film makes the point over and over again that by the time most Jewish survivors reached displaced persons' camps after the war, they had decided it wasn't only the Nazis who hated them.

But where to go next? The British Government refused to increase the quota of new immigrants to Palestine (a measly 1,500 a year) partly because the people who were already living there, the Arabs, were terrified of being overrun, and the British relied on the Arabs for precious oil.

If not the Promised Land, at least not legally, where else to go? The film quotes the response to a poll conducted at the end of 1945, asking the Jewish DPs what their second choice would be, after Palestine. 'Crematoria' 90 per cent of them answered.