Planet Earth: 10 years on

Chris Connor looks at the global appeal heralded by the return of David Attenborough’s landmark documentary. 

A chinstrap penguin colony is one of the sights featured in the new series. (YouTube/BBC)
A chinstrap penguin colony is one of the sights featured in the new series. (YouTube/BBC)

Like many, I have always had an attraction to wildlife documentaries of one kind or another. I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC’s ‘Walking With’ series’ narrated by Kenneth Brannagh as it charted prehistoric life, yet Planet Earth set a precedent that I feel has been hard to follow. It was the first BBC nature documentary to be shot in HD, setting the template for subsequent programmes such as Frozen Planet, Life and Africa. Whilst these were stunning to behold, they lacked the sheer scale and grandeur Planet Earth generated. Perhaps this is why the prospect of a second series has fuelled such hype.

Recently re-watching the show, it’s amazing how the camerawork has held up over 10 years. With over 11 million people in the UK tuning into watch the programme upon its first broadcast, followed not long after by some 100 million total viewers in the US, the reaction to its return highlights the fact this feeling has not died away. Part of the appeal of Planet Earth seems to have come from the global scale and diversity of the show. While many similar documentaries might focus on one particular region per episode, in Planet Earth you could be in Antarctica one minute, and then suddenly fly halfway across the globe to East African Savannah the next. This ambitious technique was not only bold, but illustrated the interconnectedness of all ecosystems on this planet. Nothing seemed too far away, and the array of life on Earth was at once seen to be both vastly diverse, and yetall a part of the same thing.

To this day, Planet Earth sits at number 2 on IMDB’s TV listings by rating, and was number 1 for many years – it doesn’t seem like it would be difficult for the new series to reclaim that place. With Sir David Attenborough celebrating his 90th birthday this year, it’s the ideal time to bring back one of his most popular shows for a new generation of fans.