End of series review: Secrets of Our Living Planet
The BBC Two documentary series Secrets of Our Living Planet came to a close this week, with the final episode exploring water-based ecosystems. In previous episodes, the programme, presented by an exuberant Chris Packham, looked at rainforest, savannah and temperate forest eco-systems across the world, highlighting the interconnectivity of all living things on the planet.
Instead of following the clichéd route of some nature documentaries by throwing together some thundering music, tense narration and endless chase scenes, Secrets of Our Living Planet instead focuses on less obvious species which could very easily be overlooked. The connections that Packham illustrates between seemingly disparate species are simply remarkable. Initially, they seem to be very far-fetched, and it is hard to see how pairs of animal species as different as crabs and tigers, ants and maned wolves, bears and trees, or even snails and manta-rays, could actually be linked. However, when he explains in detail how the reciprocity works, the connections seem obvious and devastatingly simple. A picture soon emerges of the natural world as an elegant, self-regulating system in a fine balance that could very easily be upset.
The programme makes clear that the loss of any one species in an ecosystem is catastrophic because these are systems that have developed to function perfectly over millions of years. This shows the importance of conservation, and offers a counterargument to those who would say that it doesn’t matter if a species goes extinct here and there. Whilst it is true that sometimes ecosystems will adapt to the loss of a component, other times they won’t, and it is hard to know just exactly what the result of removing a species from an environment will be until it has happened. By this point, of course, it is too late to change anything.
Packham displays a wonderful enthusiasm for his subject that makes this programme a pleasure to watch; all too-often with documentaries it is clear that the presenter has little interest in their work other than the money they are going to get for doing it. With Packham, this is not the case. The programme is also visually stunning, visiting diverse locations across the entire world, and is beautifully shot. The result is an exploration of the relationships between different plant and animal species that is as enjoyable to watch as it is informative.
The first three episodes of Secrets of Our Living Planet remain available on iPlayer until Tuesday 24th July, with the final episode available until Sunday 29th.