Friday, 5 February 2016

Life in the Freezer (1993)

No, this series is not about the unidentifiable bag of green stuff in the back of your ice box.  The "freezer" in question is Antarctica, a place which makes the inside of your coldest home appliance look positively balmy.

David Attenborough's three previous Life series all had a pretty epic scope: life throughout time, life across the world, and life through the lens of the challenges all living beings must face.  This series narrows the focus in all three respects.  It deals only with the life that exists today, only within the Antarctic region, and (with a few diversions) only with the challenges of mating and rearing young.

I think the narrowed focus definitely makes this series feel less grand than those which came before.  Given that all the creatures described must face similar challenges - brutal cold, strong winds, and a largely shared group of predators - the material here definitely has less diversity than the series which preceded it.  This is not to say there aren't interesting parts: there are.  Attenborough's overview of Antarctica's dry valleys, for instance; or the all too brief aside about Mount Erebus; really give an insight into a part of our own world that still feels truly alien.

Most of the run time, however, is dedicated to more photogenic forms of life than the lichen and algae that endure in the two areas mentioned above.  The series spends a lot of time with various species of seals and penguins, including the emperor penguin, whose arduous breeding cycle later became the basis for the March of the Penguins documentary film.

This is a good nature documentary, well made and informative, with some wonderful footage of a deeply inhospitable part of the world that few of us will ever get to see.  While I do not think it is as compelling as the three previous Attenborough series, that is a very high bar to clear indeed.  If you have an interest in the world around you, it is definitely worth a look.

The usual content warnings for nature documentaries apply, of course.

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