Whether you’re a seasoned documentary viewer or someone who catches the odd gazelle vs lion moment squashed between relatives at Christmas, I think it’s undeniable that with 9.2 million tuning in on the first episode, Attenborough’s Planet Earth II really has something special to offer. I enjoy a good documentary myself, but recently have become accustomed to slow, sleep-inducing underwater scenes and cameras panning never-ending forests. Islands, however, is another story and I’d even venture to say it’s on par with a lot of the overpriced films at your local cinema.
With Planet Earth II, you discover the real definition of HD and wonder if the producers skipped the risk assessment concerning the equipment, especially when you see thousands of pounds worth of cameras being transported in a small boat. Islands certainly isn’t lacking in its soundtrack either, with dramatic scores of music composed by Hans Zimmer throughout the whole series (think Interstellar or The Dark Knight). So be prepared to sit tight as you become a bit too emotionally invested in the best documentary series you’ll watch all year. (Spoilers to come.)
If you’re an Ice Age film fan you’ll be pleased to see ‘Sid’ the sloth making an appearance right at the beginning of the episode, though notably much warmer and slower than his animated counterpart. You can see him swimming through water so blue that it rivals any top holiday destination and can’t help but think life suits him much better there than on top of a glacier.
One of the tensest moments you’ll come across is the chase between the newly hatched iguanas and racer snakes. The scene is something akin to an unsuspecting new-kid at school cornered by bullies before he’s even made it out the door. But it soon becomes apparent that it’s more than his lunch money they’re after as the snakes try to catch the tastiest meal they’ve had in a long time. This wildlife documentary quickly begins to resemble the latest American-gangster blockbuster as we see the hatchlings hounded by Al Capone’s heavies.
We also see a few scenes featuring one beautiful albatrosses, who looks as good as any airbrushed model on the front of magazines. The powdery grey blends on white feathers makes you wonder how long he spends getting ready in the morning or whether he really did just ‘wake up like this’. But these glamorous seagulls aren’t the only birds you’ll see as the episode ends with some familiar faces.
Last but certainly not least we have the penguins. We see them living on an island where every day they must risk their lives to find food. Many return as wounded soldiers while others perish at war. Although the urge to provide medical aid and provisions for these survivors grows stronger the longer you watch, there is some relief in seeing families with fluffy chicks reunited, which are probably the cutest part of the whole hour.
You can catch up the first episode Islands on BBC iPlayer and tune in every Sunday 8pm-9pm on BBC One to see the rest of Planet Earth II as it’s released and experience the thrill along with the nation for a brilliant end to any week.