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Planet Earth II - First episode reviewed

Planet Earth II

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

SIR David Attenborough’s wildlife specials never cease to amaze. Hence, Planet Earth II got off to another stunning start on Sunday night: providing as much to marvel at as there was to make you gasp.

Highlights in this opener included newly hatched marine iguanas being forced to run for their lives across the sand to rocks before being caught by racer snakes, as well as chinstrap penguins braving some of the roughest seas on the planet to make it to and from feeding grounds for their young.

Footage of the former species arguably provided more drama than several films or TV shows you could mention. The snakes were horrifying; the iguanas assuming the role of young Indiana Jones types as they fleet footed their way to safety, sometimes pursued by up to six or seven attackers. Some made it; others didn’t. Footage of the unlucky ones being caught was enough to make you feel queasy. Here, nature entered the realm of horror.

In one particularly memorable sequence, a patient iguana played for time, using the limited vision of the snakes to wait for an opening. But even then, further snakes lay in wait and even appeared to catch him. But he somehow miraculously escaped their grasp. It was a moment to make you cheer.

The penguins, meanwhile, endured just as torrid a time. Tossed about by waves against jagged rock formations, several were seen emerging bloody and battered, yet still determined to deliver their payload to their kids.

Both sequences stood as a testament to the beauty and cruelty of nature, where survival can be determined in an instant. But therein also lies the point of this new series.

For as Sir David pointed out, our planet is facing some of its biggest challenges ever; most of them as a result of mankind’s meddling. Red crabs on Christmas Island, for instance, have had their formerly idyllic island paradise invaded by yellow crazy ants, which makes their annual migration to the sea more perilous than it has ever been. The ants, almost inevitably, found their way to the island because of man.

In many ways, episode 1 of Planet Earth II was a gruelling experience. Yes, the high definition cameras provided crystal clear footage of beautiful landscapes and even more beautiful creatures. But each apparent paradise had some kind of struggle to survive.

Next week, we move from select islands to inhospitable mountains, where we’re promised another mouth-watering extravaganza. It looks unmissable. But the important thing, while marvelling, is not to miss the underlying message about the fragility of a natural environment forced to work harder for its survival by the interference of humanity.