Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads

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#SteveReviews: A Perfect Planet

It’s that time of year again when a new Attenborough series airs on BBC One. Up and down the country, families crowd to the living room on Sunday evenings to see what wisdom and wonder can be gleaned from another landmark in wildlife programming. A Perfect Planet is a little different, it is the first of such series to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and so it’s reach and impact is slightly less than that originally envisioned, but the team has still done a fantastic job against the odds. There are only five episodes (similarly to Dynasties) with the topic being a different force that has shaped life on Earth. These being, volcanoes, the sun, weather and oceans. But what about the fifth force? To me, this is the most important episode as the top is us. Humans.

I’ve been saying this for far too long now, nature documentaries focus too much on trying to make the world seem like a picturesque and pristine wilderness, when in reality it couldn’t be further from the truth. There is nowhere on the planet that isn’t under threat due to the actions of our own species. This is touched on nicely in the final episode (which is still yet to air) and I feel that it may lead to change in some attitudes. We need people to understand what impacts their daily lives are having on wildlife across the globe and what they can do to help minimise those, otherwise we’re just stuck in a cycle of perpetual decline. Whilst some scenes may be graphic or upsetting, in my mind they’re needed to break through to the average family. We also need to stop dumbing down wildlife filmmaking and explain nature in it’s pure, raw form.

As with most series of it’s kind A Perfect Planet does a great job of utilising the latest technology, delivering some mind-blowing cinematography. However, I’m not sure how much this helps audiences to connect with the animals we’re seeing. There is a massive disconnect with nature in the UK and I feel we need to be doing more to help connect people back with the natural world. In my mind, there isn’t enough native wildlife featured to help showcase the amazing flora and fauna we have in Europe. I know things will have been made near impossible by the COVID-19 pandemic, but they should have been included. Some of the sequences also seem borrowed from previous landmark series, these are places where you could have easily substituted in a story about cold-water reefs or peat bogs.

Given that, the series is spectacular and I’m sure most will enjoy it. My closing thought is that it’s name, A Perfect Planet is somewhat of an oxymoron – especially given humankind’s influence. All we’re doing is reinforcing the viewpoint that everything is okay and we don’t need to act. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

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