I’ve always loved wildlife programmes. Back in the day when we only had 5 channels on the TV, Sunday evenings were dedicated to the BBC’s wildlife documentary for that week. I was more than content as a child to sit and watch them with my mum, I was mesmerised by the crocodiles and big cats but always hopeful that the poor gazelle would get away. When we upgraded our TV package to Sky for the first time, Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel made a daily occurrence.
When I think of wildlife commentators, the first name that comes my mind straight away is Sir David Attenborough. There is just something truly wonderful about David, from his calming voice and eloquent way of speaking, the genuine joy and amazement he has for animals, and the way he can engage his audience with enlightening perspectives. The quality of the programmes he narrates are outstanding – they are certainly pioneering in the areas of production and visuals.
Netflix hasn’t helped my addiction with watching his programmes. There’s nothing quite like Netflix and chilling with David on a miserable wet evening, and re-watching series like the Blue Planet (2001), Planet Earth (2006), Life (2009), Frozen Planet (2011), and so forth. When re-watching these series, I can remember back to that time of my life when I first originally watched them. I recall my reactions to each of them and what moments stood out. When I watched the Blue Planet with my mum when it first aired on the BBC, it was our weekly addiction, but I remember in particular both of our freaked out reactions to that episode on the creatures of the deep. They looked extraterrestrial and other worldly.
If you were like me and one of the other 12 million people who have tuned into Planet Earth II which had aired in November 2016, then you had watched something truly spectacular. The series was filmed in Ultra HD and had engaged its audience with stunning visuals, magical music as well as beautiful, cute, thrilling and terrifying moments. The episode ‘Islands’ had featured the scene of the baby iguanas running the gauntlet of swarms of racer snakes on the Galapagos island of Fernandina. Without exaggeration, it really was the stuff of nightmares. Social media was buzzing that night with posts and tweets from viewers on how shocking, captivating and gruesome this moment was. I for one was on the edge of my seat screaming at the TV coaching the baby iguanas to get away.
Not only was it the most watched televised wildlife series in 15 years, Planet Earth II’s impact went beyond mere viewing numbers. The first three episodes of the installment had attracted more young viewers (16-34 year olds) than The X Factor on ITV. David had wrote that he believed that it was due to the use of the technological advancements and high-definition visuals, that had made the natural world feel real to them. It pleases me immensely to think that people had sat aside their mobile phones and actually engaged in something more meaningful. For 58 minutes they felt connected to something much bigger than themselves, that the world they know is only a fraction of what earth actually is. David’s words sums it up quite perfectly, people were “…reconnecting with a planet whose beauty is blemished and whose health is failing”.
Research conducted on 7,500 global participants in ‘The Happiness Project’ by BBC Earth and the University of California, had found that watching Planet Earth II boosted viewers emotions of awe, contentedness and happiness whilst also reducing levels of anxiety, fear and tiredness. Results showed that women experienced more dramatic emotional changes than their male counterparters, while people aged between 16-24 showed large reductions in the feelings of nervousness, fatigue and stress. David has stated that he believes that wildlife programmes are a form of ‘escapism’ from our everyday reality. Maybe that is why I find myself compelled to binge watch wildlife programmes on Netflix so much.
Comment below on your thoughts on this, does watching programmes like Planet Earth II change your mood? What moments in any of the mentioned wildlife programmes stand out for you?