David Attenborough: Zoo Quest for a Dragon | Seeking the Komodo dragon in Indonesia

'Zoo Quest' audience research report

A report showing how viewers reacted to the last episode of 'Zoo Quest for a Dragon'.


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British Broadcasting Corporation

(Week 45) [Document Reference Number] VR/56/587


6 - 'Dragons for Komodo'
Produced by David Attenborough
Friday, 9th November, 1956: 8.15-8.45 pm, Television Service

1. Size of audience (based on results of the Survey of Listening and Viewing
shown in full on the daily Audience Barometer.)

It is estimated that the audience for this broadcast was 22% of the adult
population of the United Kingdom, equivalent to 50% of the adult TV public.

2. Reaction of audience (based on questionnaires completed by a sample of the
audience. This sample, 313 in number, is the 48% of the Viewing Panel who saw
the broadcast.)

The reactions of this sample of the audience were distributed as follows:

A+ 65%
A 33%
B 2%
C 0
C- 0

giving the outstanding REACTION INDEX of 91%. This beats the previous peak
figure of 90% - for the final programme in Week 37, 1955 - of the previous 'Zoo
Quest' series, which covered the BBC/Zoo expedition to British Guiana) for this
type of zoological programme, introducing films made on location abroad. The
high Indices (86, 83, 83, 77 and 80) for the five earlier programmes of the
present series are comparable with those (86, 80, 80, 82 and 82) for the
corresponding prorammes in 'Zoo Quest to Guiana'.

3. For the majority of viewers in the sample, 'Dragons of Komodo' was an utterly
breathtaking piece of television, and, as a Motor Transport Driver put it, 'a
really red-hot climax to a wonderful series’. It seems, indeed, that excitement
ran high whilst waiting for the formidable, tenfoot lizard (whose capture was
the ultimate object of the present 'Zoo Quest') to emerge from the depths of the
Komodo jungle and be lured into a specially constructed trap (made after the
native pattern by David Attenborough and his assistants). When the monster (which
proved to be truly antediluvian in form) eventually presented itself to their
(obviously) fascinated gaze, viewers were released from the suspense of wondering
(as many had apparently done as the series went on - with no definite news of the
titular dragon) if such a creature were really only a myth. The reality was
almost unbelievable, they said, but they were nonetheless delighted to have
visual proof of the dragon’s existence, and to see how its captors (with the aid
of a lot of patience and goat’s-meat bait) persuaded it to enter the wooden cage.
The trapping sequences were undoubtedly the 'high-spot' of the programmes but
viewers also very much enjoyed seeing the island (and the islanders) of Komodo.
According to general comment, moreover, every stage of the journey, including
the sea-trip from Bali, was packed with thrills, and it ended in a fashion,
which, to quote an R.A.F. Officer, 'must have made St. George green with envy at
the exploits of his modern counterparts'.


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ZOO QUEST (Week 45) (continued)

4. Viewers were only sorry that after all the effort and endurance of David
Attenborough and members of his team, a formality (to do with export licences)
had dashed their hopes of bringing home their 'prize capture' with all the other
animals. Members of the sample audience certainly shared this disappointment
with the BBC and the London Zoo, but they felt nonetheless that David
Attenborough and Charles Lagus had something to be really proud of in the
pictorial record of their search. There were many tributes to Charles Lagus'
'brilliant photography' throughout the series, culminating in the 'fantastic'
portrait-studies of the dragon itself. As for David Attenborough's narration of
the expedition (not to speak of his own part in it) the remark of a Shop
Assistant to the effect that 'only superlatives will do' is an apt Illustration
of general feeling. Individual viewers made particular reference to David
Attenborough's 'gift for giving an unassuming but always compelling account of
his adventures', and as final proof of his popularity as a speaker, explorer
and lover of animals, a Fitter and Turner had this to say: 'We regard
Attenborough as the finest type of young Englishman - unpretentious, humorous,
resourceful and humane with his animals. A grand boy! How well he tells his
story too'.

5, As always when the time comes to say goodbye to a 'Zoo Quest' series, viewers
(most of whom had seen at least five of the six programmes) were full of regrets.
Their one consolation was, it seems, the thought that the BBC/Zoo team might be
asked, in the not too distant future, to make yet another of 'these absolutely
wonderful trips' to some remote corner of the world. The way in which the fruits
of such a commission would be received by viewers can be judged by the warmth of
their reaction to the present series. here, in illustration of their enthusiasm,
is a selection of the tributes paid to 'Zoo Quest' - for a Dragon'.

'A most fascinating trip - whilst enjoying the comfort of one's fireside - to
places of great interest which are only names to most people. thank you for a
tip-top conducted tour.' (Surveyor's Assistant)

'An overwhelmingly interesting programme, packed with adventure and information
which can outdo fiction at times.' (Housewife)

'Best series of its kind I have ever seen. Tonight's episode was the crowning
achievement of this clever and entertaining team.' (Motor Transport Driver)

'If possible let us have more and more of these programmes. The spirit of
adventure is infectious and very healthy.' (Teacher)

Copyright of the BBC
Audience Research Department
3rd December, 1956

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Document Type | Audience Reaction Report

03 December 1956

Document version




This report shows that 22 per cent of the total adult population of the United Kingdom watched episode six of 'Zoo Quest' and that reactions were overwhelmingly favourable. 'Utterly breathtaking' and 'best series of its kind' are some of the phrases used by audience members in describing their opinions.

Did you know?

Since the debut of 'Zoo Quest' in 1954, David Attenborough has written, produced and presented some of the most influential natural history programmes ever made. He also had a key role inside the BBC, where he was one of the architects of BBC2 and rose to be Director of Programmes.

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