The Michael Palin Collection (Box Set) (DVD)

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The Michael Palin Collection (Box Set) (DVD)

Featuring 'Around The World In 80 Days', 'Pole To Pole', 'Full Circle', 'Sahara', 'Himalaya', 'Great Railway Journeys' and 'Michael Palin's Hemingway ...

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Review of "The Michael Palin Collection (Box Set) (DVD)"

published 03/12/2005 | steerpyke
Member since : 13/02/2004
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About me :
musician, scribbler, historian, gnostic, seeker of enlightenment, asker of the wrong questions, delver into the lost archives, fugitive from the law of averages, thinker of deep thoughts, quantum spanner, zenarchist. People have woken up to worse.
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"It's better to travel well, than to arrive"

The words of Buddha that I have used as a title here really sum up Michael Palin's current career path. I guess you could call him a professional traveller, an Alan Wicker for the modern age. Except for the initial series where he set him self the task of following the mythical Phileas Fogg around the world in eighty days, Palin is a traveller with out purpose other than to enjoy the journey. What better job can there be? Shows such as these rely immensely on the presenter and many stand or fall on that factor alone. Mark Williams show "On The Rails" opened up the world of steam to many, solely through his enthusiasm and nature. Palin shines through in a similar way. He is the perfect host and travelling companion, a mix of old school English charm and off beat humour with an intelligent mind and a sharp view of the world around him. His love of people is what raises these travelogues to a higher level. After all when we travel, we are travelling through peoples lives as much as through their lands. We are also travelling through their history and political situation, and all of these go into the mixing pot to make a world wise yet easily accessible presentation.

It may seem like a big task to review a box set that contains 7 shows, but effectively they are all parts of the same production. With the same host and the same theme of travel for travels sake all that changes is the backdrop. But that's not to do any of the shows a disservice by suggesting there is no originality here. With the backdrop potentially the whole world there is enough material here for Palin to go on making fascinating shows for the next 250 years. Each series has taken a different route across the globe some more specific than others but have managed to uphold an original and endlessly fascinating presentation. The equation of Michael Palin plus World Travel equals Top Rating Shows is one that I'm sure the BBC has not let go unnoticed.

It all started with "Around the World in Eighty Days," where Palin set himself the challenge that was presented in fictional form by Jules Verne in his book of the same name. To travel around the world in modern times may seem any easy task but with flight being ruled out of the equation and the schedule being organised more or less on the hop the problems facing the modern counterpart are not to dissimilar to those encountered by the fictional hero. Setting off from The Reform Club in London across Europe via Venice and the Corinth Canal, the familiar European ways give way to the more exotic and it is here that we see our host in his element. Palin seems to revel in the challenges of being out of his depth and his charm and wit seem to get him through. Across the Arabian Sea in a dhow through India and the Far East and always seemingly behind schedule each episode is filled with glorious encounters and wonderful settings. After a long passage across the Pacific Ocean and through the more familiar USA he finally arrives home to an English Christmas reflecting on the miserable nature of the English and the anticlimax that often follows such wonderful adventures.

Palin's second outing was "Pole To Pole" where he set himself the journey of travelling from the North to the South pole, this time without the time constraints of the first outing. Through Scandinavia and Russia, Turkey and Africa the journey then flits across to South America to finish the journey south to the pole. One hundred and forty one days, sixteen countries and twelve and a half thousand miles make up this journey. In his typical Monty Python style Palin wanted to call it Pole to Pole by Public Transport, but owing to the absence of a bus route through the African bush or an Away day across Antarctica, this had to be dismissed as wishful thinking. In the event, though he relied on aircraft to get to the Poles themselves, and completed the rest of the journey overland, on a mixture of ships, trains, trucks, rafts, Ski-Doos, buses, barges, bicycles, balloons, 4-litre Land cruisers and horse-drawn carts.

The third outing was "Full Circle" which saw our hero circumnavigating the Pacific Ring. This is a journey of extremes both culturally and geographically, from the Bearing Straight to the Russian Far East down through China and Japan and South East Asia and then through Australia and New Zealand the wide varieties and exotic nature of the morass of humanity presents itself. The journey then moves on to the Americas moving up through the backbone of South America, the Andes and into Central and North America to complete the circle.

The next two series were more locally specific. "Sahara" saw Palin travelling in a large loop around the world's greatest desert. Seemingly and empty place, the series shows us that even places that seem if not uninhabitable at least uncomfortable are still the home of wonderful and diverse cultures from dispossessed Moroccan refugees to semi-nomadic caravan traders, Algerian market vendors, cosmopolitan Senegalese and the mysterious Dogon villagers, the place seems to exist not only in a variety of geographical settings but also a variety of times. Just when you are lost from the realities of the real world the Paris to Dakar road race burst through to remind you that this show is set in modern times.

The next adventure was originally going to be "The Silk Road" but after thinking that this may be to similar to the previous "Sahara" the Himalayas was chosen as the setting. From the Pakistan/ Afghan border to end six months later in Bhutan this is probably the most physically demanding show that the Palin team have made. Mingled in with the high beauty is high anxiety as Palin finds himself in some potential political flashpoints. From modern wars to timeless traditions of Buddhist serenity there is as much diversity to be found on this smaller scale expedition than the earlier wide-ranging trips.

There are two other shows featured here as well. "Hemmingway Adventure" is exclusive to this boxed set and sees our traveller following in the footsteps of the great author, visiting the places he frequented and exploring the lesser-known aspects of his life. Also featured in this set only is "Great Railway Journeys" This features both his 1980 and 1994 railway journeys. In the first, Michael travels the length of Britain by train. In the second, he travels Ireland whilst tracing the 'family line' of his
Great grandmother.

There are a number of extras to be found, as if the main features were not enough, interviews with the man himself, additional commentary and deleted scenes. This is the most complete set of Palin's travels available and is wonderfully absorbing. The whole world awaits you in this set in 35 hours of viewing and if you can't travel it in person I can think of no better person to send on your behalf than the wonderful Mr Palin.

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Comments on this review

  • Ryan74 published 24/01/2006
    I always enjoy Michael Palin's programmes, he is a very personable and charismatic host.
  • Coloneljohn published 11/12/2005
    Sounds very entertaining. I know that I missed some of the orriginal episodes when first broadcast. Might be worth getting. John
  • jouk04 published 10/12/2005
    nice review. I enjoyed watcuning his travels
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Product Information : The Michael Palin Collection (Box Set) (DVD)

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Featuring 'Around The World In 80 Days', 'Pole To Pole', 'Full Circle', 'Sahara', 'Himalaya', 'Great Railway Journeys' and 'Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure'.

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Listed on Ciao since: 25/01/2005