The Story of One

The Story of OneOur world is built on numbers and the first of these was the number 1. Starting with scratches on a bone and heading through the Greek philosophers to the development of the Roman Numerals and the Arabic number system that fed through to the numbers we use today.

Using Terry Jones semi-comic presentation style, the film is built on two key aspects. The main part of the film is based on Jones' narration, the actual words he says. Without being aloof or inaccessible, the film tells the story in a fascinating and enlightening way – never going into too much detail but doing enough to actually make you feel like you have learn something and have a very broad knowledge base on which to go off and find out more.

The other aspect is the delivery style – colorful, irreverent and fun. Mostly this works and the graphics and comedy add entertainment value to the film without taking away from the interesting content; however at times the constant computerized numbers do get a little annoying and I did want it to be too cheerful and populist but I suppose it was damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.

Jones is a good presenter because he holds these two directions together – seeming genuinely enticed by the subject while also enjoying himself. He is perfect for the broad approaching while he also drops in some great little bits of trivia (the word bankrupt coming from the Italian courts punishing a cheating banker by breaking his table; or the Italian zero being so mistrusted as a symbol that its original name giving us the word "cipher" today).

Overall, it may annoy the more aloof viewer of intellectual, stuffy documentaries about maths and science but this film succeeds in presenting the potentially dull subject in such a lively and entertaining manner that it deserves the audience it won. Perhaps a little too populist at times, it is still very interesting and enjoyable and is the sort of programme that almost makes you think that the BBC is fulfilling its public service charter.

Watch the full documentary now

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Ratings: 7.22/10 from 46 users.
  • Jay

    Love Terry Jones! Python Forever!!

  • Scott

    Wow... quite the write up! lol

    SPAM AND EGGS.

  • Cool E Beans

    Cute doc. Just wait until they start making trinary computers...0=no, 1=yes and 2=maybe

  • ProudinUS

    After the first 10 sec. I knew it was going to be a little goofy. But it was fun to watch.
    Ever since I had my foot operated on I have'nt moved from this site. It's gonna s^ck when the doctor gives me the OK to go back to work.( my wife will be glad though!)

    Thanks TDF

  • Liisa

    Nice documentary, really enjoyed this one.

  • southab

    Great documentary! Very entertaining and I believe will drive the curiosity of people to look more deeply into human civilization and culture. A good start to self education!

  • Ron

    One of my most favorite documentaries.

    It may seem bit silly at times, I mean with Terry Jones and all, but the message is non the less elegant and profound.

    I wish he'd do The Story of Zero, its history is even more fascinating because its existence was so actively suppressed for so long by so many.

  • Achems Razor

    Good doc. fun to watch, the humour made it interesting.

  • Waldo

    Brilliant!! I had no idea the Arabic number system came from India. A very refreshing take on the beginnnings of civilization as well, to often western civilization gets all the credit. In reality we used Eastern tools and philosophy to come to the modern state of things. One has to wonder why things never progressed any further than they did in the East, after all they gave the world the foundations that we built everything else on. In my opinion it is because they became so consumed with the metaphysical world of religion, and how to properly practice the worship of Allah.

  • Waldo

    @ Cool E Beans

    What possible use would the word "maybe" have in a system of calculation? Or are you making a joke, if so it was funny I must admit.

  • Waldo

    It has been brought to my attention, indirectly, that I often speculate far outside the confines of the subject matter included in the documentary that I am commenting on. The above statement about the state of Eastern society, which in truth I know nothing of, is a prime example of this. In reality all I know of Eastern society is what the Western powers that be decide they will let me know, so I have no right to question or pass judgment on it anyway. In other words disregard all of the above statement except, "Brilliant!". Though I think to stay this rigidly within the subject matter of the documentary will effectively reduce the comments section to nothing more than a thumbs up or down of the doc in question, so be it.

  • mike

    @waldo

    I was going to disagree with the part of your former comment "One has to wonder why things never progressed any further than they did in the East,", but then I read and appreciated the latter comment

    anyways its nice to have a light hearted yet well researched doc like this one

  • Cool E Beans

    @Waldo Watch 'What is Reality' recently posted here and investigate the Quanta Computer. 'Maybe' is a very important factor in calculation. If you know the answer, you don't need it but if you don't have the answer you most definately do need it. Trinary is the only way to think.

  • http://GLWillaimschannel glwilliams

    every 1 should watch, dont fish and drive. on youtube!

  • LisaP

    I have never been a big fan of maths, it just freaks me out.
    This was a fascinating doc that kept me interested throughout.
    The info is easy to understand but detailed and the humor made the subject more approachable for me.
    I really liked how they explained binary, I will imagine those egg cups in my head now whenever it comes up (binary is a popular theme for personalized car registration plates here)

  • Tigerspaw

    Informative and Entertaining.

  • Henry A.

    Informative documentary, though the presentation seems to appeal more to children tha to adults.

  • Evans

    This a cool documentary, amusing and Informative all the way

  • rahul

    WOW!!!! what a documentory... didnt know that Pythagoras didnt had zero in his times.... Proud to be an INDIAN...

  • Aureliusjr

    WoW this is amazing stuff.

  • Sieben Stern

    that was positively hilarious XD

  • JustMe___1

    Cute presentation! However, as they wanted a philosopher really obsessed with 'The One', they should have also mentioned Parmenides (and other Eleans), while Pythagoras/Pythagoreans talked about the Universe based on numbers (and therefore, given somewhat in plural), for the Eleans, One was not just a building block of everything, it was everything there is, nothing else (like difference, change, movement, plurality) can exist nor even be thought. I get it, they are not (much) popular in mathematics, but they sure do belong in this doc.

  • gilad stark

    didn't mesoamerican civilizations had a zero prior, or concurrect with India?

  • Teddy Mcd

    Aww shucks that was a pleasing way to spend an hour on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

  • gnans sg

    A wonderful documentary.Simple yet conveyed what had to. I wish I were in Rome (or that part of the world) to see the fight happening between Roman numerals & the Indian numerals.