Recently there has been much (justified) hype in nature circles and the wider culture about the Planet Earth 2 series, the first BBC show to be shot in 4K HD. For that title the series has to be something special and after last week’s opener I can confirm it is! I’m sure we’re all waiting with our mouths watering for the next episode.
The original series was the jewel in the crown of nature filmmaking and the sequel is no different, with dramatic and beautiful scenes, interspersed with expert narration from the world’s most lovable nature personality, David Attenborough. Truly the recipe for success. The drama is what makes the series so successful, just think of the Iguana. This masterpiece of a scene set everyone’s pulse racing with an Indiana Jones-style snake chase, what’s more it’s behaviour I never knew existed! Snakes hunting in packs, what could be better? Personally, the Jay vs Sparrowhawk scene in the BBC’s (again!) The Hunt still takes the biscuit, but we’ve got plenty of Planet Earth episodes left.
Planet Earth 2’s filmmakers have managed to add an element of horror and gritty reality into the show to attract yet inform a more mainstream audience. I’m a nature nut and I’m sure many of you reading this are too, so the series would probably have attracted me no matter what, but to appealing to the masses is something Planet Earth 2 does extremely well. While from a purist’s point of view, the series isn’t that informative about the animals it depicts and it could be said that the style of the programme anthropomorphises the ‘characters’, usually pitting the underdog against something scarier in order to get us to side with the smaller and usually furrier animal. I don’t care though! Even I have to admit that regular nature documentaries can get a bit boring after the same things have been covered over and over again, Planet Earth 2 dispels this stereotypes of nature programmes, being so full of drama and beautiful pictures. This is what brings in the regular TV viewer, and it has done so spectacularly, with the number of viewers exceeding those of the X-Factor on at the same time!
From a conservationist’s point of view, it’s great that so many people are at least mildly interested in nature, interested enough to watch the programme, 9.2 million of them to be precise. But, how many of these people actually care about the amazing species which grace their television screens? Considering the fact that the RSPB, the biggest nature charity in the UK, has around a ninth of the numbers that watched the show as members, should those who watch Planet Earth for its entertainment value care more? Imagine if 9.2 million people did conservation work in their local area or donated money to a cause supporting nature, the world would truly be a better place and conservationists wouldn’t have to constantly struggle to get their message out into society.
Adding onto this, are most of those who watch Planet Earth only interested in the large and showy wildlife, for example on the plains of Africa? Are they the type of people to pay for a safari, maybe put up a bird feeder for the hell of it but other than that ignore the wildlife in their local area? While I can agree that British wildlife isn’t in-your-face and eager to give its secrets away, our country is still packed with things that, once shown can peak the interest of anyone: those birds flying over your head could have come from Scandinavia and could be en route to France, those flies sitting on that leaf could be performing an intricate and beautiful mating dance which you would have only noticed if you’d looked up close or that Fox slinking down the alley could be on its way to feed its week-old cubs secluded under your neighbour’s shed. These people need to be educated that creatures live here whose lives can easily parallel the interest of any penguin, lion or parrot.
Planet Earth 2 has been beyond brilliant so far, roll on the next episodes!