While watching last night’s first of ten episodes in this new series, for once, I felt that my licence fee was entirely justified. David Attenborough of course narrated – what film about flora and fauna is worthwhile without him – but the true heroes, other than the animals featured, were the dedicated dozens of behind the scenes folks who captured the literally breathtaking footage.
We got to see some of those responsible for bringing us such astounding images in the last few minutes of the show, and it was a welcome acknowledgement of their patient, self-sacrificing skill in sharing with us the vagaries of nature through their camera lenses.
And as ever with a film that’s largely about the food chain and survival of the fittest, there were harrowing moments as well as innumerable beautiful ones. We witnessed three cheetahs combining forces to bring down a comedically lumbering ostrich, and of course, my sympathies went to the poor ostrich but it was impossible not to admire the intelligence of the cheetahs involved.
We also saw how a female octopus starves to death while protecting and nurturing her 100,000 eggs, which must surely be the dictionary definition of sacrificing oneself for ones children. As we watched one octopus going about the business of giving her life for her kids, Sir David’s mellifluous tones informed us, “She doesn’t leave the den. Not once. Unable to feed, she is starving.
“Her last act of devotion is to blow water over the eggs to help them hatch. She’s giving them the best chance she can. After her long and lonely vigil, she is dead.
“Surely this sacrifice must make her one of nature’s most devoted mothers.”
Sir David always manages to make anything he says sound as though he’s had his script written by Shakespeare or Wordsworth, and that is of course why people like me – and millions of others – would sit quite happily listening to him narrating his shopping list.
I was entirely captivated for the whole hour as we saw rare and wondrous sight after sight, such as dolphins circling schools of fish and coaxing them out of the water in a synchronised swimming-sand-sweeping ballet as witnessed from the air. And of course, that was just the beginning; we saw frogs scaling trees to find a safe place to deposit their babies, hippos fighting for mating rights and monkeys using their not inconsiderable brains to coax the contents out of uncooperative nuts.
But not all of it was easy watching for, as with the cheetahs mentioned earlier, it was hard not to look away cringing when a killer whale threw a seal into the air and it became inevitable that the seal was to be the whale’s mid-morning snack. But of course, the circle of life came back around when we saw seals stalking comically waddling penguins as their own lunch.
The bold, the beautiful, the ugly, the comedic, the graceful and the heroic were all herein, and the fact that this show has been three years in the making is testament to how much patience, skill and often sheer bravery has gone into bringing the natural world to us via our TV screens.
There should be by-laws passed that mean that anything Sir David narrates is made compulsory viewing, and if you missed Life last night, you can catch it again tonight on BBC4 or on iPlayer here, and it would be nigh on criminal to miss it. Furthermore, I guarantee you’ll make the following statements/noises several times while watching – “Wow!” “Oh my god, did you see that?” “Awww” and “that’s amazing…how did they film that?”