David Attenborough could have easily adopted a sentimental approach as he reviewed & prognosticated about what an eventful life he led & how fortunate he had been to be able to personally witness the splendors of natural history.
Instead he adopts his usual approach of presenting a string of interesting factoids to illuminate his point.
It is not stated at any point in the documentary what the real reasons for the production of this documentary are. However David Attenborough, at age 83, finally decided to retire from the BBC, one can reliably assume that it is a celebration of the most pre-eminent exponents & presenters of Natural History documentaries in the world.
This three hour documentary is handled over 3 episodes; each dealing with a different topic as follows:
* Life on Camera
* Understanding the Natural World
* Our Fragile Planet
The first episode deals with the role of technology over the past 60 years & the limitations thereof. David Attenborough has always been a keen proponent for the adoption of the latest technology where this would argument, enhance or eliminate the shortcomings of the existing technology.
David Attenborough deftly handles this by using his documentaries as the basis for his story. Starting with his initial documentary 60 years ago entitled Zoo Quest with its grainy black & white images, he gradually illustrates each technological improvement through the lens of his own documentaries.
The Seventies saw the introduction of colour when David Attenborough was appointed the first MD of BBC's Colour TV Channel. Fortunately David quickly "retired" from Senior Management & resumed his role as a Presenter.
The Eighties & Nineties saw the introduction of Infra-red & Light Intensification
Cameras. Both advances allowed David to explore the nocturnal world.
The success of documentaries such as Planet Earth can be attributed to the use of the latest advance in camera technology: the gyroscopically controlled & helicopter mounted cameras.
Each manifestation of technology has allowed David to continue engaging with the viewers' sense of wonder.
What he neglects to cover albeit briefly or as an aside that he has now been involved in a number of documentaries using the 3D technology. Even at his age, he is still pushing the envelope!
The second episode goes off at a tangent & deals with advances in mans' understand of wildlife both at the over-arching level but also at the detail level. When David first starting producing Documentaries, the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, had been well known for centuries. However the mechanism was unknown. Until the discovery of DNA by James Watson & Francis Crick in 1953 it remained an enigma.
A similar void existed as far as geology went. The whole theory of tectonic plates & their role in movements of the continents was considered heretical until the Sixties.
At the animal level, a similar void existed. For instance, the brilliant plumage of the Birds of Paradise, as they were paradigmatically called, was first photographed by David in the 50's. As the photos were not in colour, the exercise had to be repeated 30 years later.
The final episode is entitled Our Fragile Planet. It is a sobering finale to years of exploration & viewing wild life for one to be brought back to earth with a bump. David details the tragic story of man's explosive population growth & its concomitant sibling, exploding demand for food & resources.
Without this episode becoming a propaganda piece for the likes of organisations such as Greenpeace, David weaves his concerns about man's destruction of the natural habitat through half a dozen examples.
The first to go under the microscope is the palm oil industry in Indonesia. This has resulted in the eradication of vast swathes of tropical rain forest to be replaced by tens of miles of palm oil trees. The interconnectedness of the eco-system is highlighted by this practice. The impact of these silvicultural practices is more profound than the mere destruction of the trees themselves. In this case the habitat of the loveable orang-utang disappeared & with the orang-utang itself.
In a like manner, David deals with the precarious position of the affectionate Mountain Gorillas in eastern Uganda & the oceanic behemoth itself, the 100 tonne Blue Whale.
David is without a peer in the production of Natural History documentaries. Even at 84, he is able to find an entertaining angle to enthuse & enthrall others with his love of the wild.
Yet again, he has not disappointed.