Planet Earth: Great TV, Bad for Shark Fear

By Beacon Staff

Yesterday, I watched as a snow leopard ran across the rocky slopes of the Himalayan Mountains, leapt 50 feet in the air, and landed without missing a step in its pursuit of a markhor. One of the rarest and shyest animals on the planet, people who dedicate their lives to researching snow leopards consider themselves lucky to get glimpses of the great cats every few months. And here I was watching a complete hunt – in my pajamas.

My couch was a far cry from the environment filmmakers endured to bring me the never-before-filmed animal behavior. Camped high in the Himalayas, they spent three years camped in little tents in a locale that was politically and environmentally dangerous.

The snow leopard sequences were part of the DVD set of Planet Earth, a BBC documentary series that uses the newest camera technology to show scenes of some of the earth’s most amazing locations and animals.

I bought the Planet Earth set for my boyfriend last week. For months now, any time we made a trip to Costco – pretending to stock up on groceries, but in reality mostly just cruising for samples – he would stand in the aisle, holding the DVD set and gushing for several minutes about how good he’d heard the show was. Ultimately, he would always decide the $51.98 was too much of a splurge and grudgingly put the set down, promising me the next time we were at Costco he was going to buy it. Uh huh.

So, I took matters into my own hands, figuring I’d save myself from what was becoming a Costco ritual and earn some relationship bonus points. But, as the two of us sat, mouths agape through the first two parts of the series, I patted myself on the back for discovering the most elusive boyfriend gift: One that I’m sure to enjoy as much as him.

With nine parts still left to go in the 11-series show, I’m already ready to recommend the set to anyone. The camera work is stunning, continually begging the question, “How did they do that?” And the images captured leave you with the open mouth, giggly admiration of a small, amazed child. Some of the shows “first-ever” film shots include wolves chasing caribou observed from above, grizzly bear cubs leaving their den for the first time, crab-eating macaques that swim underwater, and over a hundred sailfish hunting en masse. Slow-motion footage of a shark jumping fully out of the water to catch a seal in its mouth made me never want to go in the ocean again.

But what I find most cool about the series is that anyone did it at all. In a time when reality shows seem to rule television, it’s pretty incredible that BBC put five years and millions toward this work. And that, in my mind, makes it even more awe inspiring.