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Tony Robinson presents this spectacular five-part series investigating the history of natural disasters, from the planet's beginnings to the present day

About the Show

Tony Robinson presents this spectacular five-part series investigating the history of natural disasters, from the planet's beginnings to the present day

Series 1 Summary

This spectacular five-part series, presented by Tony Robinson, investigates the history of natural disasters, from the planet's beginnings to the present, putting a new perspective on our existence and suggesting that we are the product of catastrophe.

  • Hot rocks form into a planet

    Episode 1 - Birth of the Planet

    The first programme tells the story of Earth's difficult birth, and how the formation of our moon set us on a unique course to being a planet ripe for life. Glowing peacefully in the night sky, it is difficult to imagine that the moon was actually born from one of the most violent and potentially devastating events in history. Four and half billion years ago, in the chaos of the early solar system, a Mars-sized planet smashed into our young Earth with such force that it sent rock debris hurtling out into space. This was how the moon was formed. The first film of the Catastrophe series explores the role of the moon in creating the calm atmosphere on Earth that would eventually allow life to take hold.

  • Tony Robinson in an ice age simulation

    Episode 2 - Snowball Earth

    This programme delves into a world lying beneath a frozen surface. It is the greatest climate disaster ever to have hit Earth - 650 million years ago, a cataclysmic ice age sealed the entire planet beneath ice and snow, almost destroying life and turning the world into one huge snowball.

    Snowball Earth uncovers the story behind one of the most controversial theories in science today. To investigate, the programme travels the world to follow scientists scouring southern Australia, Nevada's Death Valley and Alaskan glaciers for tantalising clues as to how our planet ran away into this doomsday scenario. The results could improve understanding of evolution and survival of life.

  • The hot Earth cools

    Episode 3 - Planet of Fire

    250 million years ago, 95% of life was wiped off the face of Earth in the biggest extinction event ever. But what was responsible? Back then, our planet was a very different place. Millions of years before the era of dinosaurs, creatures such as dicynodonts and gorgonopsians roamed the land, while the oceans too teemed with life. Then, in the blink of a geological eye, everything changed. Life itself was almost completely wiped out in what is known as the Permian extinction. Travelling to locations such as South Africa, California, and Iceland, the experts discover that the volcanic activity of the Siberian Traps led to the release of deadly gases from beneath the sea and rises in Earth's temperature. This turbocharged global warming brought drought and a breakdown in the food cycle, with even the strongest animals eventually succumbing to the conditions.

  • A huge asteroid crashes into Earth

    Episode 4 - Asteroid Strike

    Dinosaurs rose up as rulers of Earth around 230 million years ago, eventually dominating all other species and relegating mammals to the shadows. But 65 million years ago their planet was rocked by yet another massive event when, seemingly out of nowhere, the mighty dinosaurs were wiped off the face of Earth. But without this devastating catastrophe, humans would not be here today.

    This film explores the trail of clues that lead to what extinguished the dinosaurs and ultimately led to the evolution of humans. Cutting-edge scientists, palaeontologists and geologists investigate what could be responsible, and chart the story behind the widely held theory that Earth was hit once again by a deadly asteroid.

  • Civilisation begins on Earth

    Episode 5 - Survival Earth

    So far, humans have been lucky not to have experienced catastrophes on a global scale, like those that have extinguished 99% of all other species. Humans have come to reside as the most powerful species on this planet, but it is easy to forget that the forces that wiped out many of our ancestors are still at work. In this final programme, Catastrophe maps out key events over the last 75,000 years. During that time humans were subjected to a super-volcano that nearly devastated whole regions of Earth. The ensuing ice age that covered Europe with ice sheets many kilometres thick is said to have thwarted the development of complex civilisation, and the cosmic catastrophe that followed is believed to have changed life forever for the early inhabitants of North America.

Catastrophe synopsis

Tony Robinson presents this spectacular five-part series investigating the history of natural disasters, from the planet's beginnings to the present day

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