Planet Earth is an eleven part nature documentary that has won many awards and been hailed the world over. Some may even argue that it is the best series of its kind, setting the standard in the genre. Each episode examines a specific biome, except the first one, “Pole to Pole,” which mostly sets things up. Mountains, caves, plains, deserts, frozen tundra, jungles, forests, fresh water, and the oceans are explored in rich detail, really giving viewers a look at their world as never before, with a focus on the animals the dwell in each.
Planet Earth spends 50 minutes in each episode, then there is an additional ten minutes subtitled “Planet Earth Diaries,” which looks at the challenges in making such a series. And there are many obstacles. Cameras went into places not usually tread upon by humans, a necessity when looking at nature at its wild best. Thus, the crew has to find a way to get the footage they need without disturbing the environment around them too much.
First broadcast in the UK in 2006, Discovery Channel carried a version of it in the U.S. in 2007 with Sigourney Weaver (Avatar) narrating in place of famed naturalist David Attenborough. For the DVD, of course, Attenborough is in full force, with much more gravitas than Weaver ever managed. It’s fine to use an actor, but sometimes utilizing an expert in the field is just a much better fit. Planet Earth is one of those cases.
Planet Earth features many “firsts” that no other series manages to do before now. Bactrian camels are seen eating snow, a piranha feeding frenzy is caught in action, canine hunts are captured from the air, and there is even a glimpse of the extremely rare oceanic whitetip shark. These should easily be enough motive for any nature lover to own this set. It is also the first such series filmed in HD. Although a simple DVD set isn’t the best possible picture (for that, buy Blu-ray), it still looks fantastic in any edition.
Of course, many people already own Planet Earth on DVD, so there must be a good reason to buy it again. For one, the packaging is very cool, and numbered for authenticity. The six discs are in cardboard sleeves set in foam, all contained inside a plastic globe. The inside of the lid features a beautiful tree canopy panorama. The globe itself is very neat, and it sure to be a conversation piece no matter where it is placed. There are also four picture cards with facts about the animals shown on the back. These are sort of extraneous, but still fun to look at.
Some of the features in the Limited Collector’s Edition of Planet Earth can be found in earlier versions of the DVD sets, while others are only available in recent release. Audio commentary is included for “Pole to Pole,” “Mountains, “Caves,” “Great Plains,” and “Shallow Seas,” each with a different person doing the talking. A featurette called “Great Planet Earth Moments” is exactly what the title implies.
Disc five boasts “Planet Earth: The Future,” which is a three part series about conservation. Each part is an hour, and discusses how to save the environments depicted in Planet Earth. Sure, the concept is a little preachy. But after having just witnessed the wonders this rock has to offer, who is going to complain about efforts to preserve such amazing things? It’s the perfect time to argue the message, with the ideal audience already in place.
The final disc has three new specials. “Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth” delves into this particular strain of feline with gusto. “Secrets of the Maya Underworld” spills the beans on some lesser known items about the ancient civilization. “Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert” looks at a culture that may not dwell in buildings, but is pretty advanced for the animal kingdom. There is also a sneak peek of Frozen Planet, a forthcoming BBC series.
For fans of Planet Earth, the Limited Collector’s Edition is a must-have. It displays the fantastic set in an interesting way, and allows bragging rights of having the best copy of the series. Buy it for Christmas, or for yourself.