On September 17, BBC Worldwide will release the BBC America series Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan: Deadliest Critters. Monaghan, best known for his roles in Lord of the Rings and Lost, is an ideal host. Not just a recent fan of interesting animals, Monaghan has had a life-long involvement with nature and has even helped discover a spider that has been named after him, Ctenus monaghani. In each episode of Deadliest Critters, as familiar as the actor is with creepy and crawly creatures, he doesn’t hesitate to consult local animal experts and scientists who help guide him on his journey to find the deadliest local of the animal world.
The DVD includes four episodes on one disc, with a running time of approximately 180 minutes. Subtitles are available, but unfortunately no other extras. Both the close-up images of small insects and the long-distance landscape photography look great on a large-scale, high-definition television screen.
In the first episode, Monaghan is in search of the beaded lizard in Guatemala. The elusive creature is very rare. According to the enthusiastic host there are only 200 currently existing in the world.
The second episode takes him to Namibia, Africa, where he’s in search of the black thick-tailed scorpion. Monaghan is never single-mided about nature, however, always thrilled to run across any creature of the desert or jungle on his travels. Scorpions abound in Africa. While he is searching for the black thick-tailed scorpion, he meets a yellow burrowing scorpion (which he finds under a blacklight) and an adorable meerkat, who digs up his own scorpion for lunch. The meerkat quickly joins Monaghan on his quest as his hunting partner.
The third episode brings Monaghan to the rain forest in Ecuador, on the lookout for army ants. As he searches the forest he comes across an enormous black rhinoceros beetle and lemon ants (which he affirms “taste kind of lemony”). The camera also captures a Brazilian wandering spider, one of the most venomous on earth. The spider shows the audience and a very scared cameraman that it can both jump and cover six feet of forest floor in a matter of seconds. But it’s the army ants who truly impress. By sheer numbers, they can bully scorpions and even wasp nests—just about anything that crosses their path.
In the fourth and final episode on the DVD, the giant water bug brings Monaghan to Vietnam. The viewer gets to watch him get breakfast on the fly in a floating market on the Mekong River before he sets off on the water in search of his bug. On the river route he spies a giant python and looks for insects that lurk in rice paddies. He later takes a break at the market in Ho Chi Minh City, where he is offered some exotic delicacies, including black scorpions, but decides it might be bad karma to eat those.
All the episodes feature not only Monaghan’s enthusiastic and informative narrative, but some great scenic photography. There are some unforgettable images, including the army ants’ bivouac, an actual colony structure made of living ants. Occasionally the camerawork verges on blur-o-vision as we rapidly follow Monaghan and his local guides through the bush or jungle in search of critters.
Also available on September 17 from the first season of Wild Things is a second DVD of three episodes, Creepy Crawlers: Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan. A truly unique nature show, Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan has been renewed for a new season by BBC America to the delight of Monaghan and nature lovers worldwide. There is no telling what exotic creatures or locales will catch Monaghan’s fancy, but it will definitely be worth checking out whatever he discovers.