Wednesday nights at 9pm has been must-see TV for the last few weeks. No I’m not talking about people designing new houses or deciding which has-been should be crowned the new ‘king-of-the-jungle’. This is a far simpler, yet at the same time infinitely more complex hour of television that has taken it’s viewers thousands of miles from our comfort zones and shown us scenery, creatures and worlds we could never imagine.
‘Frozen Planet’ has been yet another landmark documentary series from the BBC, whisking viewers to both the South and North Pole to witness life in the most extreme locations of our planet. Over the past six weeks, we have been treated to shots of Polar Bears, Seals, Killer Whales, Penguins, Reindeer, Boars and Snow Leopards and more in their natural habitat – all in High Definition.
With David Attenborough narrating (well who else?!) the show has done a sterling job of explaining the creatures lives in the poles as they fight to survive – whilst also remaining one of the most entertaining shows on the box. Unlike many other wildlife show, there’s no on-screen presenter and instead Attenborough acts as a narrator on the fascinating stories we see unfolding in front of us.
And we do get to see everything that happens, including a great deal of upsetting scenes. One moment it can be young playful Polar Bears, the next it’s Wolves attacking a herd of Boars in a fight to the death. Some have criticised these scenes, claiming it’s wrong to show these sometimes brutal fights on screen. But I’d disagree with this, the show simply shows you the fight for survival at the poles, to edit any of it would be to ruin what the filmmakers are trying to achieve.
I think most people who have watched over the last few weeks would agree that one species of animal has been a highlight amongst others. I have fallen in love with the Penguins on this show. From their cheeky manner (the fist episode showed one Penguin stealing stones from another when his back was turned) to their phenomenal speed as they launch out of the water and on to land and to their remarkable struggle to stand, defiantly in face of extreme weather to defend their young. The Penguins involvement in the show has been fascinating.
Unlike many other wildlife shows, humans have also been a subject of ‘Frozen Planet’. Last week’s programme saw us follow the lives of the people in the Polar regions. The show documented their own fight for food – no going to Sainsbury’s for your eggs here, instead you’ll be abseiling down a cliff. We saw how they too interact with the animals there and interestingly how Penguins seem to actually ignore the human’s existence – domesticated already!
‘Frozen Planet’ is actually the third show in a series of wildlife shows co-produced by the BBC and the Discovery Channel – starting with Blue Planet (2001) and Planet Earth (2006). One of the things I have loved about this trilogy has been the effort made in the filming -taking up to four years to film a series. To celebrate this, we get to see a 10 minute ‘behind the scenes’ of every episode. In some ways I find this even more fascinating than the wildlife itself – seeing just how close and to what lengths the production crew go to to get their shots. I for one would not like to spend 2 months alone in a flimsy shack in the arctic -regardless of how many penguins are outside the door!
There is now only one show left of ‘Frozen Planet’, focusing on Attenborough himself journeying to the ‘Frozen Planet’ to see the action for himself as well as natural wonders such as Glaciers. And I think that it has been scenes such as the Glaciers and ice-sculptures that have set this series apart for me. Blue Planet and Planet Earth gave us amazing animal shots, but Frozen Planet has a backdrop beyond anything else – absolutely breathtaking.
I’m proud of the BBC for this trilogy of programmes, they’re the sort of thing that other broadcasters often shy away from due to the extreme expense for often disappointing viewing figures. Luckily ‘Frozen Planet’ has been very popular, charting the highest wildlife ratings since 2001. But I do wonder, in the current financial climate, if the BBC will commit to such an investment again any time soon. For the sake of creative and original TV, I really hope they do.
The final ‘Frozen Planet’ is on this Wednesday at 9 on BBC One, if you missed the series it’s all on BBC iPlayer or you can watch a compilation episode which is planned to be screened over Christmas.