As of its release in early 2007, Planet Earth is quite simply the greatest nature/wildlife series ever produced. Following the similarly monumental achievement of The Blue Planet: Seas of Life, this astonishing 11-part BBC series is brilliantly narrated by Sir David Attenborough and sensibly organized so that each 50-minute episode covers a specific geographical region and/or wildlife habitat (mountains, caves, deserts, shallow seas, seasonal forests, etc.) until the entire planet has been magnificently represented by the most astonishing sights and sounds you’ll ever experience from the comforts of home. The premiere episode, “From Pole to Pole,” serves as a primer for things to come, placing the entire series in proper context and giving a general overview of what to expect from each individual episode. Without being overtly political, the series maintains a consistent and subtle emphasis on the urgent need for ongoing conservation, best illustrated by the plight of polar bears whose very behavior is changing (to accommodate life-threatening changes in their fast-melting habitat) in the wake of global warming–a phenomenon that this series appropriately presents as scientific fact. With this harsh reality as subtext, the series proceeds to accentuate the positive, delivering a seemingly endless variety of natural wonders, from the spectacular mating displays of New Guinea’s various birds of paradise to a rare encounter with Siberia’s nearly-extinct Amur Leopards, of which only 30 remain in the wild.

Studio: BBC Warner
Year: 2010
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Run time: 550 minutes
Rating: NR

Audio: DTS HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Spec: 6 BD
Region: A

Planet Earth was an extraordinary natural history documentary, reviewing life on earth in 13 x 50 minute episodes. This BBC series is a superb complement to the international 2010 Biodiversity Goals and the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment project, providing a much needed global perspective on biodiversity and its value to us, particularly in its appeal to our sense of wonder. Planet Earth was produced by Alastair Fothergill with much narration by David Attenborough, and additional narrators giving voice-overs to the audience. The quality of footage was exceptionally lush, with the aim of the production team being to use “the power of the scenery” (Fothergill) to showcase the immense beauty of natural and wild earth. The series focussed on the behaviour and interactions of charismatic species in wilderness landscapes. Biodiversity is visualized at a profound level – we see life in ten terrestrial, subterranean, freshwater and marine biomes around the world, in ways that we have not seen before. Planet Earth combines population, species and ecosystem perspectives on diversity, explores ecological interactions and the processes of change in species and ecosystems.

The series was ground breaking in several ways. Firstly, innovative new technology, such as the heligimble, allowed stable filming from helicopters, hot-air balloons and ultralight aircraft, with cameras that could film wide-angle landscapes and zoom from kilometers away to high resolution close-ups, without disturbing the animals. With this and other technologies the series gave a novel perspective on wild landscapes and was able to capture behaviour, such as a African wild-dog pack hunt, that can only be understood from the air. Secondly, a sense of purpose combined with a lavish budget led to filming in numerous locations, some of these in very remote places with extreme climates, such as winter in Antarctica. The highly motivated film crews combined with a willingness to invest sufficient time and patience to film rarely seen iconic species throughout the earth – snow leopards, six-wired birds of paradise and oceanic white-tipped sharks are but a few memorable examples.

The final footage was of unstinting quality. Scenes that we have seen previously were done better, with a focus on interactions and behaviour rather than simply recording the species. In addition there are even more scenes that we have never seen before; bouncing frogs on Mt Roraima in the Venezuelan tepuis, massed hordes of sea-snakes hunting with predatory fish on remote Indonesian reefs, and an immense mound of cockroaches in a Bornean cave. A third innovation is that the film crew emerges from behind the camera to become the human focus of the series – acknowledging that they themselves are also a driving force for conservation. At the end of each episode there is a 10 min documentary about the experiences of filming in one location, with scientific consultants and local residents just part of that crew rather than the focus. The series goes out of its way to approach the issue of conservation from the perspective of a wild earth. There are rarely shots of developed or degraded landscapes and the narration is focussed on wild nature, avoiding negative hectoring about environmental destruction.
Movie Quality: 9.5/10

Special Features

  • Commentary on select episodes
  • Great Planet Earth Moments: Relive the greatest moments of this revolutionary series and discover how these scenes were captured on film!
  • Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth – The BBC Natural History Unit explores a secret cave deep in the mountains of Pakistan where generations of snow leopards return each year to raise their young.
  • Secrets of the Maya Underworld: The freshwater pools that dot Mexico s Yucatan peninsula were believed by the Mayans to be portals to the underworld. For the first time ever, the BBC Natural History Unit explores this incredible, labyrinthine system of underground rivers.
  • Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert: Follow the struggle for survival of two female elephants trying to raise their young in one of the harshest climates on Earth.
  • Music Only viewing option
  • Special Sneak Peek at Executive Producer Alastair Fothergill s next blockbuster project: Frozen Planet
  • Original DVD Special Features now also on Blu-ray: 110 minutes of behind the scenes footage one 10-minute behind the scenes program for each episode Planet Earth
  • The Future: This 3-part series looks at what the future may hold for endangered animals, habitats and ultimately ourselves. Following the environmental issues raised by Planet Earth, it asks why so many species are threatened and how they can be protected in future.

Special Features: 10/10

Final Thoughts

The main goal of the series was to show some of the last wildernesses that existed on Earth and how their animals, plants and rocks really look like. And Alastair Fothergill and company, working at the cutting edge of the modern entertainment, have done a superb job of it. The facts that “Planet Earth” is not only a stunning and brilliantly realised visual conception, but actually far more serious and thought-provoking than mere entertainment can hardly be denied.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10