It's just after Christmas, which appears to mean an obligatory David Attenborough documentary series these days – not that I'm complaining! Although, all cards on the table, I technically haven't finished watching A Perfect Planet. We were watching it at my parents and ran out of time/will power to make it through the final episode.
Because I'm not joking about the will power bit. I'm not sure if this series was just particularly bleak, or if it retrod too much ground that I've seen before, but it felt less wondrous and more depressing than any previous BBC docu-series I've seen. Which isn't to say that the videography wasn't phenomenal (it was), or the narrative storytelling/messaging bad (it's great), or the specific wildlife chosen uninteresting (if anything, it focuses way more on species normally overlooked, which was excellent). Nor was it poorly paced or lacking in novel substance. I mean, some of the animal behaviour filmed for the show has literally never been seen before, and most of it has never been captured at this quality ever. Narratives like the Galapagos tortoise breeding ground at the base of a sheer-sided volcanic crater, or the wolf pack hunting in the permanent twilight of the Arctic night, or the water-fearing crabs of Christmas Island, each was brilliant.
Similarly, as per normal, each episode ended with a short behind-the-scenes featurette, all of which (again) were perfectly paced and put together. Personally, the hunt for the Bactrian camels in the Gobi was a real highlight, and the hovercraft flamingo sequence (with shredded base) was a testimony to the lengths the camera crews go to, but all of it was fascinating. Yes, some of the footage was reused from prior series (I think I've seen that snow goose versus arctic fox bit at least three times!) and yes, we've seen brown bears fishing for salmon and Galapagos iguanas before, but even so the results are beautiful and the new twists just about justified their presence.
And yet there's no getting around it: learning about the nuances of the natural world is a bit depressing. Almost every segment, and certainly ever episode, ended with a reminder that human activity, climate change, and pollution are all combining to create one of the greatest extinction events the world has ever known. It's an important message and one I would be more annoyed if they omitted, but it does suck the joy out of things. Hence why we didn't prioritise the finale episode: Humans. I'm sure it'll have some fascinating insights into wildlife-human conflict and amazing stories of places where the wild is staging a comeback, but it felt like too much right now. Maybe when we aren't going through a global pandemic, or fighting rising corruption across most of the world's major economies, or continuing to roll back environmental policies in the UK to make a quick buck at the expense of the planet... maybe then I'll go back and finish the series. It'll probably be on Netflix by then.