Review: ‘A Perfect Planet’ Episode 1: ‘Volcano’ is the start to another amazingly photographed, drama-filled BBC nature documentary

We live on an amazing planet. We often look to science fiction and fantasy stories for a sense of wonder, but the truth is that all you have to do is look closely at this world to accomplish that. Whether it’s half a million flamingos nesting in the middle of a caustic lake, or river otters fishing in volcanically warmed waters, Earth is a miraculous place.

The BBC Natural History Unit has produced incredible nature documentaries for decades now. In particular, they captured the world’s imagination with a series of programs starting with Planet Earth back in 2006. A Perfect Planet is the latest of these series, once again narrated by David Attenborough, and once again stunningly photographed.

As implied by its title, A Perfect Planet is all about what makes this planet of ours perfect for hosting life, something unique among all the known planets in the universe. Life is created and nurtured by a balance of natural forces, and the first episode of this new series highlights one of the important features of the world that allows that balance to exist: volcanoes.

It turns out that volcanoes have influenced our world in more ways than just creating land. They’ve provided important breeding grounds, feeding grounds, as well as landscapes in which unique species have evolved. I don’t want to spoil any of the fun for you, but it will never cease to amaze me that our world is so full of weird and wonderful creatures.

Boobies, Wolf Island, Galapagos

This episode represents several firsts for The BBC Natural History Unit, including Galapagos iguanas nesting in the caldera of a volcano, and photography of a species of vampiric birds wasn’t even recognized as a species until after they filmed it.

Whether it’s the birds, the iguanas, the bears, or the otters that you’re here for (and they’re all worth watching the series for) the one thing the episode makes clear is that the balance that allows life to flourish on this planet is in danger, and it’s in danger thanks to us. We continue to be pretty bad stewards of this planet we live on, and things will continue to change unless we do. But you knew that. How could you not know that, at this point?

Volcanoes are fascinating, and they’ve had a far broader impact on this planet than I think most of us really think about. I can’t wait to see what the series looks at next.

Other Thoughts:

  • How does anyone look at birds and not think to themselves “oh that’s where the dinosaurs went?”
  • Otters: cute animal or the cutest animal.

A Perfect Planet episode one: ‘Volcano‘ premieres today, January 3rd, at 8pm eastern / pacific.

Photography copyright Adam Mitchell/Silverback Films