Full Circle With Michael Palin

Starring: Michael Palin
BBC Worldwide
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 07 June 2004

From Michael Palin and the team that brought you Around the World in 80 Days and Pole to Pole comes another ambitious journey - 50,000 miles of adventure and humour-packed incident which attempts a complete circle around the world's largest ocean. Michael sets off in Diomede, in the Bering Strait, and hopes to return there one year later via Russia, Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, and the whole length of the Americas. But right from the start thing don't go to plan...

The ever restless ex-Monty Python team member is off on his travels once again. But right from the start things seem to be against him and his crew. Just over a week into Palin's travels it looks like his first main connection maybe missed due to a late plane which can't make it to his destination because of heavy fog, and in fact, because that plane is late, he manages to miss his next important connection between Alaska and Russia.

While we know that he has a small film crew with him, I wonder how much of the drama that unfolds was real and how much was staged. For example, Palin talks about the inaccessible, remote land of Kamchatka, although I wonder how remote it really is as the next shot cuts to a man-made wooden bridge with a viewing platform crossing a bubbling river.

There are so many interesting episodes and stories that it is difficult to know where to begin - and how to do it justice.

Some of the interesting and informative sections include the journey to Nagasaki. Here Palin visits the remains of the site where the infamous atomic bomb devastated the surrounding area. When this was broadcast (1998) there were 137,000 US troops still active in Korea. The Korean War never officially ended, and a propaganda war is currently ongoing. In Vietnam the crew get into trouble for filming a cricket match. Apparently it is seen as a threat to Vietnamese national security and Palin is asked to stop filming.

Squeamish viewers might want to look away when Palin visits both a faith healer and a cock fight whilst in the Philippines. He also has to kill a wild boar while in Malaysia, as well as watch a dog being castrated in Australia.

There are numerous funny moments in this series. Some of the highlights include Palin's never ending quest to buy a bath plug in Russia, his guest appearance on Australian soap Home & Away;

And there are plenty of educational trips including a visit to an orang-utan rehabilitation centre near Borneo, a tea plantation in Java and a look at a live volcano.

By far the most entertaining episode is program six. Here Palin, now in Australia, gets to travel with the flying vet and manages to get up close to a crocodile, as well as helping to castrate a dog (as mentioned previously). He also manages to go camel rustling - which is a bit like sheep herding, but with a helicopter and jeeps instead of dogs. He also attends the Desperate and Dateless Ball, takes part in the world's only cow race, and, as mentioned earlier, gets to star in an episode of Home & Away.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, he then goes on to watch bungee jumping in New Zealand as well as joining some tourists who are eager to try the latest danger sport - sitting in a speed boat as the pilot drives at breakneck speed through some very rough and dangerous looking terrain. And then to cap it all, this action packed episode seem him spend a night aboard P&O's Oriana cruise liner - which I particularly enjoyed as I travelled aboard that vessel on a cruise a few years ago.

This collection, as with Pole to Pole, has an interview with Palin (just under 30 mins). Which reveals some interesting bits of information on the series. It explains why he tends to interview people who speak English, but his interview seems to contradicts the footage about gulping down wine fermented with the aid of saliva, in one village. It was also amusing to hear that the Japanese fan who Palin had been in touch with since Holy Grail, and who guided him through Tokyo in Full Circle, hasn't been in touch with him since the program was recorded.

I was also surprised to learn that two family emergencies - Palin's wife being diagnosed with a benign brain tumour and one of his crew's young daughter had fallen out of a first floor window - had resulted in the crew understandably taking a break in filming for a few days so they could fly home.

There is also almost an hours worth of deleted scenes on the DVD release. It's a shame that a lot of these never made it to the final cut, but at least we get to see them now. There is a very funny Australian hotel scene which was cut - and the name of the hotel? Fawlty Towers. There is also the scene where Palin asks for an early morning call while staying on a cockerel farm - very funny. However there was a slight problem with the caption to one of the extras. A surprise meeting with Mr Cheese should have read "Mr Cleese", but never mind.

There is also an extended interview (banter is probably a better word) with former Monty Python co-star Eric Idol, which again is worth watching.

Another fantastic BBC production which you are sure to dig out and watch again and again.

Darren Rea

Buy this item online
We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal!
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£14.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
£16.99 (MVC.co.uk)
£16.99 (Streetsonline.co.uk)

All prices correct at time of going to press.