DVDs in Review #47: The Living Planet

Category: , By Rev/Views

Written and Presented by Sir David Attenborough

The Show:

An oldie but a goodie today with one of the BBC's most excellent wildlife documentaries, now if there's something that the BBC still do will to this date it's Wildlife and it's entirely thanks to David's tireless work that this has happened. The Living Planet was originally transmitted between January and April 1984 and still stands as a spectacular portrait of our planet and the wide diversity of creatures that inhabit it.

The Living Planet is a twelve episode series which has each episode looking at a particular environmental type on our planet. It begins it's journey with 'The Furnaces of the Earth' looking at the most primeval force on our planet - the magma that seeps out from beneath the earth's crust - and then moves on across the poles, through the tundra, jungles, deserts, rivers, beaches, islands, the oceans and the sky before ending in the newest of all environments; the urban one.

This series is filled with evocative imagery that brings the majesty of the natural world to the viewer and David Attenborough's trademark narration remains constantly informative and interesting throughout. His presence as a guide across our globe is a constant without ever trying to overshadow the wonders of nature he's showing us. Some of the more modern documentaries forget about this and decide to focus too much on the presenters, who cares if you're going to go stand under a waterfall for a few hours? I want to know about tree frogs and creeping vines.

Some of the highlights of this series include breathtaking shots of lava spouts, a balloon ride to near the top of the Earth's atmosphere (where spiders can be found if you'd believe it), footage from the bottom of the ocean and the wonderful episode about how fragile and unique island dwelling life becomes in their isolation.

The Living Planet also stands as a snapshot of the natural world in 1984, perhaps thirty, fifty or a hundred years from now our children and our grandchildren will only have these documentaries left to mark the beautiful bio-diversity our planet once had. It also stands in wonderful contrast to the more modern documentaries and is especially interesting when watched in conjunction with 'The Planet Earth'.

Now if I had a complaint about this series it would be that the oceanic life is highly short changed, there is a greater variety of life in the oceans than there is on land but the series only dips into the water for three episodes and just one of those is about the oceans themselves. It's also worth noting that the film quality is lower than more modern documentaries, film grain is present throughout and while I didn't find this irritating it may annoy others.

The Other Stuff:

One of the things I most appreciate about the BBC documentaries is their consistency in design. The Living Planet has a simple black scheme marked with a striking picture of lava on the front and just two images on the back. The colour scheme is kept simple as well; Black, White and Yellow with the gloss

Start Up and Menus:
This stark simplicity continues through the start up (which is as simple and inoffensive as all BBC DVDs are) and the menus. You have my favourite option (play all) plus the option to check each episode separately and even pick the scene you start with. This allows you to get straight to the bits you like best (insects, sharks and deep sea fish please!)

The Details:
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Main Soundtrack: English - Stereo
Runtime: 10 hours 43 mins
Region: 2+4 Colour PAL UK
Subtitles: English HoH
Rating: E (Exempt)

The Final Word:

The BBC do one thing better than anything else in the world and that's make wildlife documentaries, The Living Planet is part of that dynasty as one of the earliest that sparked it's rise to the top. Even in this day the series continues to enthrall and capture the imagination of the viewer. It's simultaneously entertaining, humbling, educational and beautiful.


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