No matter who you are, where you’re from, how old you are or what you’re generally into, no one can deny being completely transfixed to Planet Earth II when it hit our screen back in 2016. While the legacy of Planet Earth still stood strong, here it was back again for the 4K generation – with advancements in technology allowing more stunning wonders to be witnessed – and with David Attenborough still adding his trademark tones, it was a series that was clearly in good hands… /voice. Although it might seem odd to be celebrating a series 18 months old, the years of work that went into Planet Earth II, and the material that came from this (enough to fill more DVDs than even the more pro box-set binger), is the stuff of wonder, and deserves so much more than a fleeting television series. Planet Earth II: Live In Concert ensured that its legacy stayed alive, and that each was more enhanced.
Marrying those beautiful visuals and bringing the score to the forefront, Royal Albert Hall hosted a concert that on paper may not have worked (a nature documentary with an orchestra..?) but was in fact a perfect pairing. Hosted by Planet Earth Executive Producer Mike Gunton, and with the BBC Concert Orchestra led by the incredibly talented Jessica Cottis, the show begun with a surprise – legendary composer Hans Zimmer (who wrote the main theme) took to the stage, inciting that any applause was aimed at the orchestra and Planet Earth team. Having been fortunate enough to see him live a couple of times, it’s clear that the only thing more prominent than his talent is his generosity in sharing the praise heaped on him with others.
Prior to Cottis’ entrance, he introduces a younger conductor, Jacob Shea, onto the stage, likening his musical abilities with a worldwide focus on environmental issues: “This generation can do a better job than we did.” Despite his appearance being a fleeting one, it’s an honour to share a room with a man whose musical ability is surely one of the wonders of the world.
Within seconds of the concert beginning I had to hold back the tears, and in all honesty I wasn’t entirely sure why. Initial panic of a breakdown or some sort of seizure quickly disappeared when I realised that the reason was purely because mere seconds in it was apparent that this was perhaps the most serene thing I had ever witnessed. Beyond goosebumps and far more than a big old grin; the simplicity of a beautiful venue, the sounds of an orchestra – often playing the beautiful, almost trademark starkness of Zimmer’s main theme – and images of our own world was a reminder of the power of it all. But not only adoration; this event provided chilling thrills and laughter. In a Big Brother eviction kind of way, let me remind you of some of Planet Earth II’s best bits:
The Indri Lemurs of Madagascar – providing their own vocals as they sung from the trees.
The Pygmy Sloths – the male swimming across the sea to try to find a mate, only to discover she’s got a kid. Suddenly his face (very) slowly switches from excitement to frustration.
Giraffe vs. Lions – and the constant inner battle of wanting the victim to survive, but knowing that with eating the lion (and their cute lil’ cubs) might not.
Penguins of Zavodski Island – looking like clumsy short men in dinner jackets, but the kind who’s risk their lives to feed their families.
A Harvest Mouse – her enemy the barn owl, and her jungle the wheat field she calls home. Thank goodness it wasn’t filmed decades earlier, as Theresa May ran through her home.
Cheeky Monkeys In India – as humans take over the land, the wildlife must survive. The locals feed them by hand, the monkey thank them by stealing their market supplies – with crisps an apparent favourite.
Back-scratching Bears & Line-dancing flamingo – the intro to act 2 was one that filled the old hall with laughter, and the likeness to Disney characters in incredible. The bear’s scene could have been straight from the recent Jungle Book remake, while the famous flamingo line-up was created for Fantasia 2000. (Something we recently saw at Royal Albert Hall.)
Iguana vs. Snakes – perhaps the most tense moment in recent TV history, and one that the makers of Marcella could only hope to create. At the end, once the main star had survived (…spoiler!) it became clear that, as the orchestra was yet to stop playing, this time the applause was for animal.
Although it did seem strange to be witnessing Planet Earth II without Attenborough, the spectacle of the event more than made up for it, with a light show adding to the dramatics, and if one message was going to ring true, it’d be one straight from his heart: This planet is more beautiful than anything on it. And in TRASH-ier terms: Don’t be lazy and idle – you don’t need plastic bags or straws and you’re not too busy to recycle.
Photos: Andy Paradise