There were shockwaves felt when Sir David Attenborough revealed he was doing a brand new bluechip nature series for Netflix and not the BBC. Surely the nonagenarian hadn’t been lured by better money?
No. He had a bigger picture in mind. With the planet in such a perilous state, Netflix had the reach he was looking for, connecting to millions of homes in territories across the world where they could hear his message: time is running out.
“Just 50 years ago we finally ventured to the moon,” he tells us. “For the very first time we looked back at our own planet.
“Since then the human population has more than doubled. This series will celebrate the natural wonders that remains and reveal what we must preserve to ensure that people and nature thrive.
“Wildlife populations ave declined by 60%.
“For the first time in history, the stability of nature can no longer be taken for granted.”
Cue the orchestra, the stunning cinematography and the enthralling wildlife cast. Our Planet has begun, get ready for slow-mo, aerial and tracking shots and a mellifluous storyteller.
The opening episode, “One Planet”, takes a sweeping, holistic view of planet Earth, zeroing in on regions of high drama and conflict.
In Peru millions of shearwater birds carpet-bomb the ocean, diving underwater for anchovies that are herded into massive food balls by dolphins. This is a dance of nature bustling and alive, but from there we are whisked across to the dry salt pan deserts of Africa where animals struggle for sustenance. Only when monsoon rains replenish the dirt can millions of flamingos give birth. But the chicks are too small to fly and when the land dries up they must trek 50 km for water. Not all will make the unforgiving march -Attenborough is never short of animal drama.
Tanzania’s Serengeti is also home to Wildebeests and while I fear a nature cliche of crocodiles coming, I’m relieved -of sorts- to discover it is hungry hunting dogs. The thrill of the chase is both exhilarating and distressing at once, accompanied by rises and falls in the score.
The peculiarities of nature take centrestage in the tropic jungle when Mannakin birds stage romantic courtship dances, complete with backflips, slithering and supporting players.
There are two more key sequences. The first is deep in icy northern hemisphere forests following a caribou migration, but another hunt takes grip with deadly wolves.
The most disturbing footage is left to Greenland as cameras capture massive ice cliffs crashing into the ocean. In HD, and no doubt in 4K, it looks utterly spectacular. Attenborough warns the polar caps are warming faster than any other part of the planet. These are icebergs as big as skyscrapers.
But watching such vision belies the environmental message Attenborough is here to convey. The power of a TV icon and a streaming giant is unbeatable.
One small quibble…. I realise he is 92, but it would have been fab to have Sir David appear on screen too.
Our Planet begins Friday April 5 on Netflix.