A hundred years ago, there were one and a half billion people on Earth. Now, over six billion crowd our fragile planet. But even so, there are still places barely touched by humanity. This series will take you to the last wildernesses and show you the planet and its wildlife as you have never seen them before. — David Attenborough (opening narration from Planet Earth)
How does one even begin to lay down the words that would even dare to try to encompass and review the DVD boxset of the BBC’s nature documentary/mini-series Planet Earth, and not instantly feel insignificant and otherwise insufficient for the task? Bearing in mind that the overall cost of production was around $25 million and that filming occurred over the span of 62 countries, 204 individual locations, all over a period of five years, perhaps such feelings are not altogether unwarranted.
Produced by Alastair Fothergill, also responsible for the successful The Blue Planet series, each of the eleven episodes of Planet Earth focuses on one of the Earth’s natural habitats and examines its indigenous features, along with the types of fauna to be found there. More than a few of these locations and the animals living therein are spectacles that have never previously been filmed, and were only achieved through the use of some fairly innovative camera techniques and technology. Previously unseen animal behaviors include: wolves chasing caribou as they are aerially observed and filmed, snow leopards hunting markhor in the Himalayas, grizzly bear cubs leaving their den for the first time, crab-eating macaques that swim underwater, and over a hundred sailfish hunting all together.
Simply put, the filmmakers have managed to capture some of the most amazing footage of animals in their native habitat, ever. Period.
Of course, when you’re dealing with such things, occasionally the camera’s eye is going to capture parts of the natural cycle of life that might not all be as easy to stomach for casual viewers. Examples would include an elephant being brought down by lions, a polar bear unsuccessfully attacking a walrus colony and subsequently being overcome with hunger and fatigue. Fothergill, in interviews, confirmed that he asked the BBC for an appropriate warning, before airing episodes with such content.
The thing is, we have to tread a fine line between showing nature as it really is and not offending the sensibilities of viewers. I think it's an enormous mistake to try and sanitize nature, but I can assure you that there's plenty of footage that we shan't be showing. — Alastair Fothergill
As it would be much too length to go into detail concerning each episode and its individual content, here is a small summary:
01. Pole to Pole: Illustrates a “journey” around the world and reveals the effect of gradual climatic change and seasonal transitions en route.
02. Mountains: All of the main mountain ranges of the world are explored with extensive aerial photography.
03. Fresh Water: Describes the course taken by rivers and some of the species that take advantage of such a habitat, as is provided by such habitats. All of which ultimately illustrates that, though only three percent of all the world’s water is fresh, all life is ultimately dependent on it.
04. Caves: Explores the planet’s “final” frontier, as it presents to viewers the world of caves and tunnels found throughout the world.
05. Deserts: Features this harsh environment that covers approximately one third of the planet, as well as the various forms of life that have adapted to survive its harshness.
06. Ice Worlds: Primarily looks at the regions of both the Artic and Antarctica.
07. Great Plains: Deals with savanna, steppe, tundra, prairie, and takes a look at the importance and resilience of grasses in such treeless ecosystems — systems that contain the largest concentration of animal life on Earth.
08. Jungles: Examines jungles and tropical rainforests, two environments that occupy only three percent of the land yet are home to over half the world’s species.
09. Shallow Seas: Is devoted to the shallow seas that fringe the world’s continents — an area that may only constitute only eight percent of the oceans, yet it also contains the most marine life.
10. Seasonal Forests: Surveys the coniferous and deciduous seasonal woodland habitats — the most extensive forests to be found on Earth.
11. Ocean Deep: Concentrates on the most unexplored area of the planet, the deep ocean.
Each episode runs approximately 58 minutes in length. This includes “Planet Earth Diaries,” a 10-minute feature that details the filming of a particular event. Also, the DVDs have each episode being narrated by the wonderful vocal talents of David Attenborough as it was in the program’s original BBC release, instead of with Sigourney Weaver’s narration as was used in the American airing of the series on the Discovery Channel.
The BBC’s Planet Earth is available in Standard Definition DVD, High-Definition DVD, and Blu-Ray DVD formats.
- 90 minutes not shown on the Discovery Channel’s release.
- Planet Earth — The Future: A 150-minute companion series that looks at what the future may hold for endangered animals, habitats and — ultimately — ourselves.
- 110 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage (included on standard-definition DVD release only)