Top positive review
88 people found this helpful
The Human Planet - The most remarkable species of all.
on 5 March 2011
It was Mark Twain who is usually credited with originating the maxim that "the only two certainties in life are death and taxes" He was wrong since Twain never had the benefit of the wonders of the BBC Natural History Unit whose certainty appears to be the complete inability to construct a bad programme. Time after time they have achieved the consistant feat of producing the most wonderful and lavish programmes which throughly inform and educate. This latest series is a variant on a theme since the "Human Planet" looks at us as a species particularly our behaviour in subsistence and fundamentally dangerous environments (with the exception of the last episode "Cities") where humans are most challenged by nature, eco systems or competition with other mammals and animals.
The Human Planet is a series packed with what television producers describe as the "gawp factor". It is beautifully filmed and the intriguing "Behind the Lens" segments to every programme show the scale of the logistical challenge for the BBC film crews and the lengths they go to for the perfect shot. The background to the technical filming of the Loatian fisherman Sam Nang in the episode River is as fascinating as Nangs own precarious shuffle on a old blue pair of flip flops across the raging torrent of the Mekong River below suspended on self strung wire. Likewise throughout the warm narration of actor John Hurt is excellent (although the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough are missed) while the dramatic music provided by Nitin Sawhney adds considerably to all the drama. But obviously the main stars are the eight programmes human subjects with massive highlights screaming out of every episode. Some of my favourites include the Algerian well diggers, the Inuit fishing for mussels under sea ice as the tide rushes back, the race against the elephants to a desert waterhole by a teenage cow herder Mamadou who battles against a huge bull elephant, the Dogon people of Mali in a huge scrum frantically fishing fish in the sacred water of Lake Antogo, the uneven match of three men against 15 hungry lions, the hugely colourful and often amusing Wodaabe men and their bird like courtship dance and most of all the brilliant episode on the Jungle including the death defying search for honey and the Papuan Korowai tribes massive feat of tree house building.
There are some faults in the series not least that the last episode "Cities" which while excellent seems slightly out of kilter with the rest of the series. It serves however as a fair warning always to choose your New York restaurants very carefully, and who could not be struck by the frustrating and poignant portrayal of a poor women market trader in Jaipur and her struggle against a gang of thuggish and marauding Rhesus Macaque's. On a larger scale than this there has also been some debate and complaints about the level of animal bloodletting in the series and perhaps the warnings of this could be clearer and the start of the programmes. The hunt of sperm whale in the first episode "Oceans" may be disturbing to some viewers likewise the brutal capture and kill of a huge Greenland shark in the third episode who is fed to dogs. Yet this series serves to remind us that we are mammals that dwell in nature and not everyone has a local supermarket packed full of food nicely shrink wrapped/presented and almost divorced from any act of killing. The death of the sperm whale in particular is shown as an essential lifeline to the Indonesian villagers who take a maximum of six whales per year and battle the whale in wooden boats over an agonising eight hours. Some may argue that this doesn't make it right but it proves that for many humans their daily existence is a Darwinian challenge to survive.
For the technical amongst you the series is stunning to watch and filmed in High Definition 1080/16.9 although you need to carefully navigate the discs opening formats since you can find yourself unwittingly switching on (for me at least) a somewhat intrusive audio navigation. All in all this is a complete triumph for the BBC/Discovery Channel and even if you have seen the series on TV this Blu Ray set repays an immediate and more detailed second visit. This is a series filmed over four years and nearly a hundred locations which is destined to be weighed down and laden with awards. It is one which the BBC should be justifiably proud of since it is a fantastic television achievement and groundbreaking in scope, scale and ambition. The use of the word "essential" at this point almost seems superfluous, buy it now.