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Streaming giant, Netflix pulled off something of a coup when it managed to develop a partnership with the BBC and bring the legendary nature broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough. "Our PLanet" is the result of the collaboration and takes the form of an eight-part wildlife series highlighting the problems the human race is causing for the planet.
The series opens with the first episode giving the viewer a detailed look at the history of the planet Earth and a brief recap of the short life of humans to date. David Attenborough provides the narration as the history of humans is traced with the stark warning that around 60 percent of animal life has been wiped out since the dawn of the human era on Earth. Attenborough warns us of the continued problem of a shrinking wildlife population and an ever-increasing human race across the planet.
The introduction to life on Earth comes to an end with a shift to the coastline of Peru where the viewer is shown the mass feeding events which still take place off the coast of South America. Flocks of birds make their way to Peru to feast on the high number of anchovies which are feeding just beneath the surface of the water. Stunning 4K camera work is used to capture slow-motion views of the birds diving into the water to scoop up the fish as quickly as possible. As the birds are feeding, the segment also shows us the arrival of dolphins which have been attracted to the feeding frenzy and take part in eating anchovies with ease.
Throughout the various episodes of "Our Planet," Attenborough and his team provide a juxtaposition of the Peruvian feeding frenzy alongside the desolate salt flats of the continent of Africa. This juxtaposition is also used to show us the sights we often associate with certain regions are not the only ones to be seen when we explore the true life of each area of the planet. For a short period each year, the rains come to the African salt flats and the region becomes an oasis for different animals. In the middle of the flats the rains attract the flamingo and other bords who feed on the fish washed into the flats for a few short weeks.
Episode one of "Our Planet" tells a series of stories based around what each species featured have to do to survive on a daily basis. Whether it is the birds seeking out a feeding frenzy of fish or wild dogs looking to evade the wild dogs of the African Plains the true nature of the planet is revealed. The first episode ends with a look at the wolf, an often misunderstood animal according to the narration. The snow and ice of Northern Europe are shown to be the home to the wolf and shows the way their life differs from the wild dogs who hunt wildebeest on the Plains.
Sir David Attenborough has been involved in the study and broadcasting of wildlife throughout most of his life. Often referred to as a natural historian, Attenborough joined the BBC in 1950 at a time when he had only seen one television program in his entire life. During his early years in television, the broadcaster was told his teeth were too big for presenting segments directly to the camera. Attenborough is known for fronting and producing a number of wildlife shows, including the acclaimed, "Life" franchise for the BBC. Beginning in 1979, "Life on Earth" became the early benchmark for wildlife shows across the world and was followed by another eight series focusing on different aspects of life on Earth. The broadcaster became so respected in television circles that he took the role of head of the BBC Two network in the mid-1960s while still producing documentaries on various wildlife subjects. In recent years, Attenborough has been forthright in his campaigning to avert what he sees as a coming environmental disaster for the planet brought on the expansion of human development.
"Our Planet" is directed by the acclaimed British wildlife producer, Alastair Fothergill who spent much of his career working at the BBC. Fothergill had risen to become the head of the corporation's Natural History Unit but gave up the role in the 1990s to focus on his return to producing more documentaries. The director has been a consistent collaborator for Sir David Attenborough as he has worked on shows including "Blue Planet," "Frozen Planet," and "The Hunt." Fothergill has been awarded the Royal Geographical Society's Cherry Keaton Medal for his work bringing the issues facing wildlife to the attention of the public.
The decision to begin filming for "Our Planet" was announced by the BBC and Netflix in 2015 and has included over four years of filming which began before the announcement of the series. Bringing the varied types of wildlife to the public is not an easy thing to do and has seen the crew work in more than 50 countries around the world. Some members of the crew were dispatched to the Arctic to create the eight episodes of the first season.
For most critics, the series, "Our Planet" was well handled and received many four and five-star ratings from those writing for publications such as "The Guardian" and "Vox." The show was praised for the way it handled the differences between the way the animals of the world work together to live and feed and humans are endangering the future of all species across the planet. One of the problems facing the show for many critics was the sheer size of the problems the natural world is facing and the show struggles to get across the entire message of the damage humans are doing to the planet. Despite a few limitations, "Our Planet" is described as visually stunning and brings some unseen species to the TV screen with the narration of Sir David Attenborough also praised. Rotten Tomatoes gives the series a rating of 88 percent with viewers praising the visuals and message of the show.
Some viewers criticized the segment featuring a walrus forced onto dry land by the melting of ice caps which resulted in the death of the animal being depicted onscreen. The show had a huge budget for a wildlife documentary series of over $25 million and filmed in over 200 locations. To bring images not seen before on TV into our homes, the crew gained special permission from the Norwegian Government to enter a wildlife habitat for polar bears. The area had been sealed off from humans to protect the delicate environment for the polar bears living in the area making the crew of "Our Planet" the first humans to enter the region for 25 years.