I was looking for ways to spend the Learning Allowance the kids are afforded by the homeschooling program they’re enrolled in. Because we don’t live in a TV universe, I hadn’t heard of BBC’s Planet Earth series until I stumbled onto it at Amazon.ca. We love all the David Attenborough nature documentaries and have watched lots of them over the years thanks to our Zip.ca subscription. But we’d just given up our Zip subscription for the year (we re-register every October, through until April), and Planet Earth looked like something we’d enjoy owning and watching repeatedly. So I ordered it.
What a phenomenal series! Even Erin, who doesn’t take much interest in nature documentaries as a rule, is interested in this one. Each of the eleven segments examines a different biome — caves, shallow seas, jungles, grasslands, mountains, polar regions and so on. The photography is stunning. For many of the most spectacular sequences they’ve used a camera affixed to the bottom of a helicopter, one with immense telescopic capacity, so that the helicopter can fly 1000 metres above an individual animal, outside the animal’s awareness, and the camera can make you feel like you’re looking over its shoulder. There are wonderful panoramic and satellite images, clever use of pans and zooms and time-lapse sequences — even in combination. What this series does with unsurpassed skill is to put magnificent animals in the context of magnificent landscapes.
I was sad to see that Sigourney Weaver had done the narration for the American release of this series and tried to over-ride the region settings on our DVD player in the hope that we could get it to play UK DVDs, and then order the Attenborough version. I couldn’t hack the regional settings though, and resigned myself to Sigourney Weaver. So I was delighted to discover, when our discs arrived, that it’s only the Discovery Channel release that uses Weaver — the standard release, including our copy, has Attenborough.