TV review: Planet Earth II – BBC One (5 stars)

TV review: Planet Earth II – BBC One

David Attenborough presents stunning documentary series from the BBC Natural History Unit

In 2006 Planet Earth broke new ground. At the time it was the most expensive wildlife documentary of all time. Now Sir David Attenborough and BBC Natural History Unit return, with a sequel that spans the globe. In the ten years that have passed, new technology means we can get closer than ever to the animals of the world, but conversely, the ravages of pollution and over-population over the last decade mean that the planet's ecosystem has never been so fragile.

The opening episode focuses on island life. Mini ecosystems, many of which have evolved in isolation. Marvels include a pygmy sloth swimming through the ocean, gigantic Komodo Dragons in combat, lemurs leaping through the thorny forests of Madagascar and packs of snakes chasing baby iguanas. There's also an unashamed environmental message as we watch ants, inadvertently introduced by visiting ships, killing indigenous crabs. It's not always an easy watch, showcasing the brutal reality of Mother Nature in unsentimental but fascinating footage.

From 1979's Life on Earth, onwards Attenborough's work with the BBC represents the high water mark in wildlife documentaries. His warmth and knowledge resonates through every episode. The final ten-minute 'Diaries' sections which close each show are a testament to the dedication and commitment of the film teams. The lengths they go to are extraordinary, but the scenes they capture are spectacular, sometimes filming aspects of animal behaviour for the very first time.

This is exactly what television was invented for. PEII also marks the first BBC production in ultra-high 4K definition. So find the biggest TV you can and immerse yourself in the wonders of the natural world. Simply stunning.

Planet Earth II starts on BBC One, Sun 6 Nov.

How to watch Planet Earth II in 4K

For many 2006's Planet Earth was the tipping point that finally proved that HD was worth the upgrade. Can Planet Earth II do the same for 4K? Maybe. While PEII was filmed in ultra HD the BBC don't currently have a 4K broadcast channel. They are planning a four minute test of PEII footage on iPlayer with an Ultra HD Blu-ray release expected in the future. Maybe not the giant leap forward we expected but it at least proves the corporation's commitment to the new ultra-high def format.


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