Tuesday, 19 December 2017
Planet Earth (2006)
In 1984 the BBC produced The Living Planet, a truly excellent nature documentary series. Just over 20 years later they brought us Planet Earth, which could just have easily been titled "The Living Planet: the Next Generation".
Planet Earth has the same basic structure as the earlier series - touring the world biosphere by biosphere, moving from say mountains to deserts to plains to the sea - and the same narrator in the eternally velvet-voiced David Attenborough.
There are some differences between the two series, of course. Planet Earth benefits from twenty years of additional research and technological innovation, for one thing, which allows it to show you scenes that would not have been possible in the earlier program. Not all the changes are for the better, though. Planet Earth is very much more about animals than it is about other forms of life. Plants and fungi get much less attention this time around, and I do feel like the more narrow focus is a disappointment. I get that animals are more active and probably make better footage for that reason, but it just feels a little less ambitious.
The second disappointment is that Attenborough's role is purely voice-over. Again, there are probably good reasons for that - he was pushing 80 when this show was produced - but his enthusiasm when he appeared on screen was always so unfeigned and so infectious that its absence here was very notable to me.
These quibbles aside, though, Planet Earth is a genuinely excellent documentary, and being "not quite as good as The Living Planet" is still high praise indeed. If you've an interest in the natural world, you're sure to learn plenty of fascinating things from watching it.