The Daily Telegraph
Jeopardy and high emotion to savour in mighty return to Earth’s icy wilderness
Afuel crisis might not seem like the best time to launch the BBC Natural History Unit’s latest landmark natural history series. We’re all likely to be fairly frozen over the coming months, and watching snow-bound documentaries while David Attenborough whispers about sub-zero temperatures and whistling winds is hardly going to warm our cockles. However, it’s easy to forgive a production as mighty and magisterial as Frozen Planet II (BBC One).
The debut series 11 years ago examined the Arctic and Antarctica. But icy wilderness covers more than one fifth of Earth’s surface, leaving plenty more chilly habitats to explore. This sequel celebrates them in spectacular style.
Thankfully, environmental fingerwagging is kept to a minimum. Attenborough sounds a warning about how frozen habitats are disappearing fast. Then, public service announcement over, it’s on with the wildlife show.
We’re all familiar with images of emperor penguins surrounding their chicks to create a sort of thermal crèche. What I’ve never seen before is that when spring arrives, the adults stroll off without a backwards glance. One even pushes its little darling to the ground in its haste to get away. A familiar feeling for anyone saddled with toddlers over the summer holidays.
Similarly relatable are scenes of a polar bear taking her cubs swimming. She stands beside a lake, calling them to come out. It’s uncannily reminiscent of a human parent, holding an armful of towels at a leisure centre. I imagine the young bears plead for a packet of vending machine crisps afterwards.
Every few minutes comes another absorbing mini-drama. There’s a Disney-esque emotional reunion between a musk ox and its calf following a grizzly bear attack. We witness the ingenious hunting techniques of killer whales as they tip Weddell seals off ice floes.
A magnificent Siberian tiger finds itself upstaged by a smaller feline, the endearingly grumpy Pallas’s cat. The hooded seal inflates its bulbous nose and blows a bright red balloon out of its nostril to seduce a female. Understandably, she’s unimpressed. It never worked with bubble gum in the school playground either, mate.
Later in the series, we’re promised scene-stealing pandas, Arctic foxes diving into the snow and a feisty bison kicking a wolf in the face. “Nature red in hoof and maw”, to misquote Tennyson.
The veteran naturalist can’t resist a concluding homily about global warming, complete with sad-looking polar bear to hammer home the message. As Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack swells and swirls, this is an hour replete with thrilling jeopardy, high emotion and stunning
‘The hooded seal blew a red balloon out of its nostril to seduce a female. She was unimpressed’
photography. We should witness these frozen wonders – and savour the work of the 96-year-old broadcaster – while there’s still time.
Frozen Planet II launches at 8pm on Sunday September 11 on BBC One and BBC iplayer