Planet Earth 2: Episode One recap
Attenborough’s back baby, and he’s brought friends.
The legendary broadcaster and naturalist (had to be careful to get that spelling right) has returned to our screens ten years after the original Planet Earth mini-series – and it’s brilliant.
Episode one focuses on islands and the animals that inhabit them including penguins, iguanas and of course – the social media darlings – sloths.
The program starts with the slow-mo superstar – the ‘pygmy three-toed sloth’ – climbing a tree in an island of Isla Escudi de Veraguas just off Panama. It starts off as standard sloth fare – climbing trees, searching for mangoes and generally looking quite content.
We are then hit with a bombshell – our protagonist is looking for a mate and there are only a few hundred sloths on the island. As the island is 4.3km² (which is probably more like 400km² when you move that slow and don’t have Uber) you get the feeling finding a female won’t be as easy as hitting the club and strutting your stuff to the tune of Mr Brightside.
Suddenly a call comes from somewhere in the forest – a female call – and our sloth is on the move. He’s hardly the Flash, but he’s moving quicker than any sloth I’ve ever seen (which is too many while procrastinating at university). He then swims the ocean in between islands – at this point I was audibly cheering him on.
Usain Sloth then climbs to the summit of the tree to find a female who already has a mate, and a baby. Unlucky mate, it happens.
We are then introduced to a dragon fight. Admittedly not quite the spectacle of Game of Thrones, but watching a pair of ten-foot long armoured lizards battle over a mate is still quite the spectacle.
There are also heart-breaking scenes where some friendly-looking crabs looking to migrate are attacked by ants in a way that makes me feel slightly less bad about not leaving any air holes in my ant’s nest when I was six, while some penguins have to brave a leap and traverse solidified lava to protect and feed their families – sort of a cross between March of the Penguins and Saving Private Ryan.
The real highlight, however, was the iguanas. In one of the greatest cinematic scenes possibly ever in British television, I watched from between my fingers as baby iguanas dashed across the islands plains as they tried desperately to evade the ambush of the stalking racer snakes.
The segment isn’t just incredible because of how intense and nerve-wracking it is, but also because it shows how far the nature documentary has come over the last decade or so. Gone are the bog-standard panning shots of old, replaced by incredible tracking views that really capture the action. It felt like I should be watching in the cinema rather than at home in my pyjamas.
It was a truly stunning scene worthy of the universal praise it’s enjoying. Finding the action must be difficult enough for the film crew considering all the travelling and waiting, but the execution really does it justice.
Scenes like that seem to be what has made Planet Earth II into one of those rare programs that is not only wonderfully-made and full of interesting facts, but is also accessible to a huge audience. It even has an Oscar-worthy score from renowned composer Hans Zimmer. This feels like a series that has truly nailed the area between high-brow documentary and prime-time entertainment.
Attenborough’s back and it’s brilliant.
If you enjoy my attempts to piggyback of David Attenborough’s talents you may want to like my Facebook page so you can see my try it on a weekly basis!
Or you can follow me on Twitter @SpeltWithAV, where it’s all me. Prepare to be underwhelmed.