Our Planet: Essential viewing for everyone
Mike Williams | On 14, Jun 2023
Season 2 premieres on 14th June 2023. This review is based on Season 1 and was originally published on 3rd April 2019.
Despite the enormity of Netflix’s Our Planet, it’s a series we’ve heard relatively little about ahead of its release – considering it’s a spiritual extension of the BBC’s wonderful Planet Earth and Blue Planet Sir David Attenborough’s fronted for years. Said wildlife documentaries need no introduction; they’re narrated by arguably the most well-known and beloved expert in the form of the now 92-year-old Attenborough, and capture some of the most logistically-challenging and mind-bogglingly sublime wildlife footage in existence. And all in crystal clear, vibrant HD.
That Sir Dave has affiliated himself with Netflix’s answer to the acclaimed BBC docs is, to put it mildly, welcome. And from Our Planet’s glorious introduction, we know exactly where we stand. Interestingly, it’s in a slightly different position to where we enjoyed the gripping snake-chases-lizard sequence in Planet Earth II, and nearer to the predicament of facing up to the enormous guilt we felt when, in Blue Planet II, we witnessed a whale cradling her dead offspring in what was suggested as a man-made, preventable death.
It’s this latter, and much harsher, theme that runs throughout the eight episodes of Our Planet. Here, the focus is on us as humans and how we, collectively, have damaged the planet to catastrophic levels. Yet, as we are reminded, the problems are not entirely irreversible: that is the glimmer of hope we can take from this extraordinary series.
“With our help, the planet can recover,” the living ledge reassures us, leading one to suspect that while we are involved in another gorgeous wildlife series, it’s also a guilt trip to give people that firm and consistent nudge they so desperately need, if we are to save our planet from ourselves.
As you’d expect, Our Planet is a visual masterpiece, wonderful and varied in each episode that hones in on various aspects of the globe. Rather than a theme of oceanic life or mammals that live on land, this attempts to tackle everything, which, in itself, is hugely ambitious for a mere eight hours of footage and narration.
But, unsurprisingly, it works. A clear picture of the planet is painted, forming one of Attenborough’s most startling and important documentary series to date. As well as the continuous finger-point to us as a species to actively preserve the planet and take a long, hard look at how we continue to destroy it, it also encourages us through the emotion of its storytelling to simply care more.
Awareness raised is paramount yet its balance is key to forging a series that is both informative and lacking in condescension – something Attenborough and the filmmaking team manage to do perfectly. Each contained episode is mouth-watering in high definition, the slow-mo moments – even as simple as seeing a bird dive into fresh water to catch a fish – are mesmerising, as are the ultra-detailed close-ups of a colony of ants tending to caterpillars, or even the simplicity of the birth of a butterfly; each moment captured is a genuine pleasure to watch.
Across a variety of terrains, locales, and species, Our Planet succeeds in conveying the issues at hand, the state of the Earth, what we can do, why we should care – a form of education all packaged as entertainment. We’re bombarded with stats and percentages to illustrate how much harm is being done, and that’s something that sticks with you. The constant reminder that ‘90% of this’ or ‘95% of that’ species has been removed is a stark reminder how bad things really are. It’s shocking, sad, enlightening, awe-inspiring, and exquisitely told. Our Planet is essential viewing for everyone on our planet.
Our Planet is available on Netflix UK from Friday 5th April, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription.