Frozen Planet: To the Ends of the Earth - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
THE first episode of new BBC Wildlife show Frozen Planet offered an embarrassment of riches, from mating polar bears to killer Orcas using group tactics to capture and eat seals.
It took viewers into some of the most inhospitable terrain on Earth and proceeded to dazzle them with a jaw-dropping mix of the beautiful, the ugly and the downright bizarre, juxtaposing moments of unlikely tenderness with surprising ruthlessness.
Admittedly, it zipped from Pole to Pole in sometimes breathless fashion, offering brief insights into the icy environments and their inhabitants when a whole hour would have done.
But with six more episodes to come, and imagery of such mind-blowing nature, it feels almost greedy to criticise that aspect of the show too harshly. Presumably, we’ll get more!
Among the highlights of this first episode, To The Ends of the Earth was footage of a male polar bear tracking a female for miles, then wooing and seducing her in the most intimate manner, before defending her against a series of would-be suitors.
The ensuing footage of polar bears fighting each other was brutal but breathtaking, leaving the poor male bloodied, victorious but ultimately alone. For once he had planted his seed, he went off to roam the frozen icelands in self-imposed isolation, possibly never seeing the object of his affection, or even his offspring again.
And if that sounds harsh and more than a little sad, then there was plenty more to come from the episode – sequences that dazzled as much as they broke the heart.
Take, for instance, the poor Weddell seal who was systematically targeted by hungry killer whales, who manufactured waves to wash him off his iceberg and playfully devour him once he was too exhausted to continue fighting.
Or the poor young bison who was left to a pack of hungry wolves after being unceremoniously smashed to the ground by a panicked older herd-mat as it rushed by.
Such sequences, while amazing to watch (and rarely, if ever, captured) underline the brutality that accompanies nature, even at its most spectacular.
That’s not to say the episode merely focused on the hunter and his prey. One lucky surfing penguin managed to use all of its wit and guile to escape the toothy clutches of a seal predator.
While captivating footage of an owl hunting in the snow, or vast rivers of glacier water winding its way through ice and rock formations simply mesmerised for their serene beauty alone.
As did footage of eerie, snow-drenched forests, or fairytale-like slow-mo formations of snow-flakes… we could go on.
Suffice to say, Sir David Attenborough and co managed to cram so many special moments into 60 short minutes that you really did feel spoilt.
And while the gathering of the footage has reportedly cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds to put together, for once the price seems worth it… especially given the disappearing nature of some of these environments and their residents.
Frozen Planet truly is a celebration of these arctic regions and a potent reminder that the fate of such beauty continues to lie in our hands. It is a privilege to watch.
Frozen Planet is on BBC1 on Wednesday nights from 9pm.