David Attenborough has churned out a good few docs since this was released in 2006, but none have ticked quite so many boxes as the utterly brilliant piece of art that is Planet Earth.
To be fair to Sir David, Planet Earth II was pretty darn good too, but we had to wait ten whole years to get that second instalment. Though we can understand why – filming something of this immense magnitude is no mean feat, and the first season took four years to film and covered 64 countries. This ground-breaking documentary remains one of the most loved and most captivating bits of telly, taking us to climates and regions we’ve never seen, right from the comfort of our sofa.
Each of Planet Earth’s eleven episodes journeys to a new environment, crossing mountains, jungles, oceans and great plains to uncover the fascinating lives of the creatures that live there. And they really do make our nine to five lives look a breeze. Here polar bears are swimming for days on the search for food, elephants trudge on through deserts in desperate need of a watering hole, the elusive snow leopard exerts all its energy hunting a deer, and seals dodge their hungry, neighbouring sharks. For these animals, getting food and drink is a lot trickier than opening the Deliveroo app. But this peek into the day to day lives of our fellow earth inhabitants was, and still is, fascinating.
Fascinating too is the way the series blended natural history documentation, and the experiences of the film makers themselves. Now a known and expected format of an Attenborough doc, the last ten minutes of each episode is spent with the crew, highlighting the extreme lengths they go to, to get that perfect, never-before-captured-on-film shot.
It’s likely why The New York Times’s Susan Stewart calls this the “mother of all nature series,” brining us “the photographic spoils of a five-year global odyssey.” Variety’s Sonia Saraiya says that as a result, this is “a program that offers a vision of humanity’s relationship with our environment at its absolute and most idealistic best: One where we work mightily to contemplate, understand, and admire the mysterious natural world around us.”
And they’ve kept that winning formula for Planet Earth II, which The Telegraph’s Gerard O’Donovan gives five stars and says is “one of the most stunningly vivid and engaging natural history films I’ve ever seen.” And The Times’s Andrew Billen concurs on the five star review, along with the British nation, it seems – the series garnered a whopping 9.2 million viewers.
First shown March 2006. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.