Steve's Herpetological Blog

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


#SteveReviews: Dynasties

Many of you will be aware of Dynasties, the 2018 nature documentary series narrated by Sir David Attenborough. The series has five episodes, each one focusses on a different vulnerable but well-known species from the chimpanzee to tiger. The whole premise of the series is the dynasty that each species leaves, whether that be offspring or a family legacy. The end of each episode has a short segment titled ‘Dynasties On Location’, a behind the scenes look at filming and planning of each episode. These segments have become increasingly common in nature documentaries.

There is no denying it, Dynasties is another amazing blend of moving cinematography and wildlife film-making. With only five episodes, there was only so much that could be focussed on. With the running theme throughout the series being family, it makes sense to use such familiar and charismatic animals. This helps the viewer anthropomorphise them and reflect their own emotions upon them. The series opened strong with the first episode highlighting the power-struggle and politics in a family troop of chimpanzees in Senegal. Unlike the other episodes in the series there was very little information about the relations of the main chimpanzee ‘David’ to the others in the troop despite the moving and graphic story.

Whilst I enjoyed the series as always (and even went and bought it as soon as it was released), it has some flaws. I can see the value in using well-known species as subjects of the series although I feel there would have been a much greater contribution to conservation if more unfamiliar species were used. Chimpanzees, tigers and lions are the subject of multiple documentaries. Imagine the impact Dynasties could have had if they’d tackled dart frogs or vultures. Both of these species are threatened with extinction and also have some level of sociality.

There may some practical limitations to this so I can fully understand why the series ran with the format it did, however there was potential for more. If there is a sequel series it will move away from being mammal-centric. Something else that caused confusion was using the name painted wolves to describe African wild dogs. Whilst the term is not incorrect, it highlights one of the issues with common names. They are highly variable and can be interpreted in multiple ways depending on location and language.

Watch the trailer to Dynasties and let me know what you think.

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