Like approximately 231% of the population I’m obsessively watching BBC’s tour de force of a documentary, Planet Earth II.
The original series – which was released an astonishing 10 years ago – had everything; incredible never-seen-before footage of never-heard-of-before creatures, wonderfully emotive scenery, Sigur Ros’ swooping, majestic Hoppipolla and of course the incomparable David Attenborough.
Despite being only a handful of episodes in to the current series, I think I actually prefer it.
No, it perhaps doesn’t feel as truly ground-breaking or boundary pushing as the previous one. Yes, I know ten years is a long time in technology so we shouldn’t be surprised with images that jump out of our screens at us; and no, it doesn’t feature Sigur Ros.
But what sets this series apart, in my mind, is the shift in focus to being as much about the narrative and the “characters” involved as it is about the footage.
admittedly I found it difficult to relate to the fluorescent mushroom
The editing has movie-like precision and the script has been flawlessly crafted and delivered. I find myself genuinely taking sides with either predator and prey. I’ve never wanted a baby lizard to escape a baying mob of snakes so much in my life. It makes us care like nothing before it. They’ve ensured that each animal featured is imbued with its own personality, its own character, with traits that we can all relate to (although admittedly I found it difficult to relate to the fluorescent mushroom). I think it’s this personification that that keeps viewers screaming at the TV in excitement, fear, hope and incredulity.
Another difference between this series and the last is the media context in which it has arrived; the previously nascent social media is now ubiquitous and the way the BBC has used the social platforms has greatly enhanced the show. They’ve used it grant people further behind the scenes access and stream additional “making of” content. They’ve found an authentic way to use Facebook’s 360 degree function to let people explore the jungle in more depth. They’ve even created “meme”-style content that doesn’t annoy me, which in itself is perhaps their greatest achievement. All of this content is immediately shareable and customisable meaning the majority of the stuff I’ve seen has been posted by friends, rather than directly from the Beeb.
Ultimately, it feels like a TV show that has been truly created and made available for its audience above all else.
Matt Evans – Digital Strategy Director