A few weeks ago, BBC launched Planet Earth II, the much-anticipated follow-up to the 2006 documentary series. The new version is effectively the same as the original: a series of gloriously shot and silkily produced nature documentaries narrated by the high king of the genre, David Attenborough.
We could go on about the breathtaking animal behaviour captured in each of the six hour-long episodes — snakes chasing lizards, foxes chasing goats, jaguars chasing crocodiles — but that’s not what this post is about. (We’ll save you the stoner amazement and just say it’s straight-up amazing, stoned or not.) The best part of Planet Earth II is actually the way it documents humans.
After each episode, there’s a 10-minute behind-the-scenes “Diary” episode attached. In these, Attenborough narrates the exhausting, punishing, often remarkable ways the producers and camera people went about capturing some of the hardest scenes from each remote shoot. Watch, for example, how a team of lunatic eastern European stuntmen cliff-dove in the Himalayas with cameras on their heads, trying to simulate the swooping flight of an eagle. Or find out how a crew, dispatched to the flooded rainforest of Brazil — a place almost no humans have ever been — happened upon a group of dolphins swimming through the trees. You hear directly from these adventurers, and watch them as they point their own cameras on themselves as they embark on what is clearly the most exciting project of their lives.
And then you realize: you’re watching other people watch animals. Probably time to go outside.
You can watch Planet Earth II — and the Diaries series — on BBC Earth or on iTunes.