Attenborough Awe

14 November 2016 | Tom Carter

This Sunday has seen another landslide of tweets and posts for the quite incredible Planet Earth II. Millions of viewers have tuned in to witness another hour of astonishing animal activity and shocking, heart in mouth moments.

One tweet praising David Attenborough stood out to me the most: “David Attenborough could narrate terms and conditions and I'd listen to every word.” This is absolutely true!

There were, as ever, some incredibly scary moments in the show. Who would’ve thought that watching baby Nubian Ibexes being chased and seemingly trapped by a hungry fox could get your heart racing so. One minute, you’re desperately hoping for the Ibex to escape, the next you’re feeling sorry for the meal deprived fox. Nature is a cruel old beast.

If you didn’t manage to see it I think some of the viewer’s tweets sum this scene up perfectly: “I went from worried about the baby Ibex to feeling sorry for the hungry fox in a moment. #planetearth2 is an emotional rollercoaster” and “Ibex parkour levels are through the roof #planetearth2”, following their outstanding gymnastics to escape.

And it wasn’t just foxes and Ibex, oh no, Attenborough couldn’t just give us one edge of the seat moment now could he?

The other concerned a very rare snow leopard (how they managed to film them in such detail is nothing short of astounding), rightly described by Attenborough as “One of the most majestic mountain creatures of all”. The footage captured a fight between two male leopards over who would get to mate with a female leopard. To complicate matters further, she had a cub. With Attenborough ominously stating that ‘Males kill cubs that are not their own,’ we were left in little doubt of the way this scene was going…I won’t spoil it here but viewers were considerably shaken by the events of the fight with one saying, “Dammit Attenborough - don't toy with my emotions like this!”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, with Planet Earth II providing some light relief in the form of a bear seemingly dancing against a tree (essentially a well-earned back scratch).

That’s the beauty of Attenborough documentaries. We have moments of high drama and all the cruelty of nature at its most raw. But we also have heartwarming moments mixed in that soften the often visceral reality of the natural world. Above all though, it’s unfailingly, breathtakingly beautiful.

The magnificence of Attenborough’s documentaries alone makes the license fee worth paying. The level of social media engagement and subsequent PR coverage post airing is great for the BBC at a time when more and more people are questioning the value of a TV license. This kind of enthralling programme is a firm rebuttal to that and justification for why it should continue.