National Geographic has an impeccable record at documenting wildlife.
With its newest television series, Great Migrations, it has excelled.
Sit back and prepare to be spellbound by the images, drama and production values of this four hour series.
Two years in the making, this transports the viewer to landscapes alive with some of the planet’s most extraordinary species. There are aerial shots set to a symphony of music, minute close ups of insects and battlefields where elephant seals fight bloody battles.
Unifying the stories is the theme of migrations. Herds, schools and flocks must all move to survive. As the planet summons them in seasons they undertake life-threatening journeys. The alternative, to stand still, would mean certain death.
The strong will survive. The weak succumb. Together with the arduous lengths of their annual treks, such drama makes for engrossing storytelling.
Each episode of Great Migrations features a number of different animal species from across the planet.
In the first episode we meet a documentary favourite, the wildebeest. No matter how many times you’ve watched these creatures try to cross crocodile-infested rivers, it is mesmerising television.
There are the dinner-plate size red crabs of Christmas Island, that march in their millions to the ocean to breed, including facing a foe in the form of ferocious crazy yellow ants.
Butterflies from Mexico travel across North America, a journey that takes four generations to complete. Majestic sperm whales cross oceans to survive.
In the second episode there are flying foxes in Queensland, army ants in Costa Rica, rock island penguins in the Falklands, and the white-eared kob of the Sudan. There is mating, birth and death in this epic circle of life.
The access to creatures is remarkable. Filmed in glorious HD detail, the cinematography transports you to sights we should never see. Whether high atop a rocky perch, in treetops, ice-floes, underwater or planted on African plains, nothing has been spared in order to document amazing natural dramas. At some points you feel like you are flying with butterflies, or marching across the earth with ants.
Accompanying the visuals are an orchestral score by composer Anton Sanko (Big Love) and narration by Alec Baldwin. His script juxtaposes information and drama, at times poetic in its observations.
This series never has to manufacture its drama. The harsh reality of survival, painstakingly captured by cameras, is a powerful storyteller in itself.
Great Migrations will rightfully take its place alongside other epic wildlife television including the work of David Attenborough, Jacques Cousteau, Planet Earth, Life.
In keeping with its mammoth scale, this will have a global launch this weekend. Don’t miss it.
Great Migrations airs 7:30pm Sunday on National Geographic.