CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV: Welcome to the new episode of One Man And His Hyena...

Digging for Britain 

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Cold Call  

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The one thing our party leaders agreed on during this week's election debate was that climate change is a looming global crisis. Mind you, sheep farming in Wales would be seriously dangerous without it.

Forty thousand years ago, we learned on Digging For Britain (BBC4), the hills around Bala in Snowdonia were roamed by spotted hyenas. These loping scavengers, today found only on the plains of Africa, competed with lions and wolves to hunt rhinos, giant deer and mammoths.

Try rounding up a flock of sheep with wildlife like that lurking in the next field. There's a reason that no one's ever tried to make a farming series called One Man And His Hyena.

Heaps of bones, teeth and even fossilised dung were discovered in the Ffynnon Beuno caves by archaeologists in the 18th century. But early scientists were interested only in human history since the last Ice Age, explained presenter Alice Roberts. Evidence of animals that lived tens of thousands of years ago was discarded.

Professor Alice is in her element as she examines ancient skeletons. She can read them like a GP diagnosing a case of flu: she describes age, build and even facial features just by glancing at the bones

Professor Alice is in her element as she examines ancient skeletons. She can read them like a GP diagnosing a case of flu: she describes age, build and even facial features just by glancing at the bones

Now a team of experts has returned to the site, and their finds reveal how wildly different the world was before the big freezes. These days, the only way you'd dream of seeing a rhino in Britain is to visit a safari park. Imagine bumping into one on the Snowdon mountain path.

That isn't what is meant by 'a welcome in the hillsides'.

That's the fascinating aspect with these yearly round-ups of university excavations and chance finds by metal-detector enthusiasts. They make us see our landscape in entirely different ways.

Sally Lindsay gave me the chills too in Cold Call (C5), as she rammed a hypodermic syringe filled with pure alcohol into the thigh of a fraudster

Sally Lindsay gave me the chills too in Cold Call (C5), as she rammed a hypodermic syringe filled with pure alcohol into the thigh of a fraudster

Most gruesome were the human bones sticking out of a crumbling cliff face on the South Wales coast. With the coastline eroded by heavy storms, four small cavities had opened up at the top of the sheer drop.

These were graves, hurriedly dug. A body had been tumbled into each one. Local rumour said that in Tudor times, 500 years ago, this treacherous stretch of the Bristol Channel was popular with 'wreckers' who would lure boats on to the rocks to loot their cargo.

Perhaps the bodies were unlucky sailors who got their throats cut as they stumbled ashore.

Big boots of the week:

Kelly Macdonald has been faultless as a dithering cop in Giri/Haji (BBC2), which continues tonight. Now she is revealed as the next guest star in Line Of Duty. She follows Keeley Hawes and Thandie Newton — a tough call.

Professor Alice is in her element as she examines ancient skeletons. She can read them like a GP diagnosing a case of flu: she describes age, build and even facial features just by glancing at the bones.

One of the wreckers' victims was a teenage boy, she said, with an 'almost feminine' face. History that vivid sends a shiver over the skin.

Sally Lindsay gave me the chills too in Cold Call (C5), as she rammed a hypodermic syringe filled with pure alcohol into the thigh of a fraudster.

As nurse June, she's been such a warm character that to see her commit murder without flinching came as a jolt.

The high-speed plot, which rattles along like a row of dominoes tumbling, gave June plenty of reason to hate the man. He'd robbed her of more than £80,000 and driven her mum to suicide. Now he was threatening her pregnant daughter.

Still, it's difficult to feel sympathy for a woman who can plan and carry out a killing so precisely, and then gloat as her enemy dies.

I've been glued to this four-part serial all week, and I can't wait to watch the final episode tonight. It's a small cast with a tight budget, switching between just a few studio sets, but the sheer energy of the story makes up for any shortfalls.

Better this than a heap of multi-million pound special effects any day.

 

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV: Welcome to the new episode of One Man And His Hyena...

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