Planet Earth Returned After a 10-Year Hiatus & This Is What Happened
Finally, after 10 years, the BBC has returned with a second Planet Earth series, also known as the nature documentary that makes all other nature documentaries look like rotting piles of trash. The miniseries, which is narrated by the singular, adorable Sir David Attenborough, is known for its jaw-dropping cinematography, soaring original score and heart-rending storylines, many from the first season that still make me scream and jump off the couch even though I have now seen all of them about 100 times (pro tip: Watching a Planet Earth marathon cures all sicknesses and all hangovers).
While those in the United Kingdom got to see Planet Earth II a few months ago, BBC America just premiered the series in the United States last night. And it was everything I had dreamed it would be. The first episode, "Islands," took us around the world to meet a few very weird creatures that have evolved special skills to survive in their isolated circumstances. As Attenborough told us with his warm, knowledgeable voice, “Island life encourages animals to do things differently.” I was prepared to scream, and boy did I. Here's a rundown:
When the pygmy sloth goes for a swim
Planet Earth II didn't waste any time making me scream involuntarily. The very first segment brought us to an island off of Panama, the only home of the pygmy three-toed sloth (for the record, Attenborough and perhaps all British people pronounce this "slooooth"). The pygmy sloth is so cute that you could almost scream. The pygmy sloth that is swimming through the ocean to look for a girlfriend is definitely, definitely so cute that you will scream.
How are pygmy sloths endangered? Couldn't we breed them for household pets, simultaneously saving them from extinction and us from depression?
When the damn Komodo dragons fight
Next we are off to a small group of islands off of Indonesia where the largest lizards on Earth walk around drooling excessively and eating whatever meat products they come across. Just when you think that's pretty scary, we are shown a Komodo dragon fight, which is stand-up-from-the-couch-and-cover-your-mouth terrifying. The lizards' enormous tails whack each other with the force of a boat oar while their razor-sharp teeth rip into whatever they can grab.
Halfway through the scene, you definitely start wondering what these Planet Earth II camera guys are getting paid, though whatever it is surely isn't enough. While I was watching extras online afterward, for instance, I found this footage of a cameraman finding one of the dragons in his bathroom after a day of filming them.
IN. HIS. BATHROOM.
But don't worry; they lure it out with hunk of raw meat. Like you do.
When the baby iguana escapes 1 million snakes
By far the most scream-inducing moment of the first episode was the absolutely insane segment that takes place on Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador in which baby marine iguanas must run past a bunch of racer snakes in order to get from their nests to the ocean. I can't even describe it to you without entering into a screaming fit and then hyperventilating, so maybe you should just watch the video.
This scene is everything that is great about Planet Earth II: the how-in-the-world cinematography, the perfect editing and a narrative that rivals that of any movie you've seen. Again, just watch the video.
The albatross reunion
Planet Earth II likes to terrify you, but it also knows all about love. In the next segment, we traveled to the Snares Islands in New Zealand to spend some time with a southern Buller's albatross who is impatiently waiting for his girlfriend to arrive. Albatross mate for life, but spend six months of the year traveling solo at sea. They usually meet up on the island to procreate, but for some reason, this guy's partner isn't showing up. I admit I was a little too wrapped up in whether or not she would ever arrive — and even annoyed when some nosy nearby penguins wouldn't leave the albatross alone. When his love does finally land, their reunion is squeal-worthy.
The chinstrap penguin running a clinic on co-parenting
The first episode wraps up with a visit to the world's biggest penguin colony in Zavodovski in the Southern Ocean. Here, we meet an adorable nuclear family of four chinstrap penguins among a vast swath of 1.5 million other penguins. These penguins are all about breaking gender stereotypes and equal rights — the male and female penguins take turns working, and by "working," I mean jumping into the violent ocean in order to fill their belly up with fish, which they then regurgitate for the kids.
There is something about the penguin couple that will just slay you. They are determined, supportive and just a little clumsy, as penguins should be. The moment the birds slap wings and trade off child care for the office, you can't help but let out an awwwww.