Best known to modern audiences for series such as Planet Earth and Life, Sir David Attenborough has been making natural history programmes for over six decades. At eighty-eight he holds a special place in the nation’s hearts, yet you could be forgiven for questioning what new insight his latest series Life Story can possibly offer. Fear not, however, as Sir David silences all doubts and proves his status as a national treasure with an awe-inspiring and stunning piece of television.
The minute that famously silky voice-over begins we’re met with images of animals in the most remote, wild and glorious corners of our planet. Birds of paradise replete with stunning plumage and sparring polar bears alike are captured by the inventive cinematography and the first use of HD by the BBC’s Natural History department. As Sir David explains in ways only he can, this series will deal with the miraculous species found on our Earth during their journey from birth to death. First Steps starts off this trip and yes that means it’s time to cue a montage of baby elephants, meerkats and monkeys.
Despite the incredible subject matter, it’s not all fun and games. As the programme delves into the early years of barnacle geese, a species native to Greenland, the camera trains its eye on a young family. Forced to throw themselves from a 400ft rock stack to have any chance at finding food, it’s true that watching goslings leap to their deaths won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. As if that wasn’t enough, we’re also faced with a praying mantis turning cannibal, just as it escapes from the clutches of an Aragog-like tarantula. Yet, in a programme on the animal kingdom, one can hardly shy away from the harsh realities of life, and there’s at least a pleasing Mission Impossible-esque score to add drama to the proceedings.
Doom and gloom aside, we are treated to happier scenes too, like humpback whale calf that drinks 3,500 litres of milk on its journey from Hawaii to the Arctic (surely a consolation for a holiday with confused destinations). Throw in seals on remote islands for synchronised swimming lessons and you have yourself a full hour of animal magic.
In an era when our television schedules are lacking in exciting educational programmes, Life Story proves that it’s entirely possible to inform and inspire. Visually mesmerising and bittersweet, Sir David Attenborough has achieved something truly beautiful, once again.