Planet Earth (2006 TV series)

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Planet Earth
BBC PE title.jpg
Genre Nature documentary
Narrated by
Composer(s) George Fenton
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes11
Producer(s) Alastair Fothergill
Cinematography Doug Allan
Editor(s)Martin Elsbury
Andy Netley
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)
Original network
Picture format
Audio format
Original release5 March (2006-03-05) 
10 December 2006 (2006-12-10)
Followed by Planet Earth II
Related shows
External links

Planet Earth is a 2006 British television series produced by the BBC Natural History Unit. Five years in the making, it was the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the BBC and also the first to be filmed in high definition. [1] The series received multiple awards, including four Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and an award from the Royal Television Society.

The BBC Natural History Unit (NHU) is a department of the BBC which produces television, radio and online content with a natural history or wildlife theme. It is best known for its highly regarded nature documentaries, including The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, and has a long association with David Attenborough's authored documentaries, their notably called Life on Earth.

Nature documentary film genre

A natural history film or wildlife film is a documentary film about animals, plants, or other non-human living creatures, usually concentrating on film taken in their natural habitat but also often including footage of trained and captive animals. Sometimes they are about wild animals, plants, or ecosystems in relationship to human beings. Such programmes are most frequently made for television, particularly for public broadcasting channels, but some are also made for the cinema medium. The proliferation of this genre occurred almost simultaneously alongside the production of similar television series.

High-definition video is video of higher resolution and quality than standard-definition. While there is no standardized meaning for high-definition, generally any video image with considerably more than 480 vertical lines or 576 vertical lines (Europe) is considered high-definition. Four hundred and eighty scan lines is generally the minimum even though the majority of systems greatly exceed that. Images of standard resolution captured at rates faster than normal, by a high-speed camera may be considered high-definition in some contexts. Some television series shot on high-definition video are made to look as if they have been shot on film, a technique which is often known as filmizing.


Planet Earth premiered on 5 March 2006 in the United Kingdom on BBC One, and by June 2007 had been shown in 130 countries. The original version was narrated by David Attenborough, whilst some international versions used alternative narrators.

BBC One is the first and principal television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. It was launched on 2 November 1936 as the BBC Television Service, and was the world's first regular television service with a high level of image resolution. It was renamed BBC TV in 1960, using this name until the launch of the second BBC channel BBC2 in 1964, whereupon the BBC TV channel became known as BBC1, with the current spelling adopted in 1997.

David Attenborough British broadcaster and naturalist

Sir David Frederick Attenborough is an English broadcaster and natural historian. He is best known for writing and presenting, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, the nine natural history documentary series forming the Life collection that together constitute a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth. He is a former senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s. He is the only person to have won BAFTAs for programmes in each of black and white, colour, HD, 3D and 4K. In 2018 and 2019 he received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator.

The series has eleven episodes, each of which features a global overview of a different biome or habitat on Earth. At the end of each fifty-minute episode, a ten-minute featurette takes a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges of filming the series.

Biome Distinct biological communities that have formed in response to a shared physical climate

A biome is a community of plants and animals that have common characteristics for the environment they exist in. They can be found over a range of continents. Biomes are distinct biological communities that have formed in response to a shared physical climate. Biome is a broader term than habitat; any biome can comprise a variety of habitats.

Habitat ecological or environmental area inhabited by a particular species; natural environment in which an organism lives, or the physical environment that surrounds a species population

In ecology, a habitat is the type of natural environment in which a particular species of organism lives. It is characterized by both physical and biological features. A species' habitat is those places where it can find food, shelter, protection and mates for reproduction.

Earth Third planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, which is Earth's only natural satellite. Earth orbits around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.

Ten years later, the BBC announced a six-part sequel had been commissioned, titled Planet Earth II , the first television series produced by the BBC in Ultra-high-definition (4K). David Attenborough returned as narrator and presenter. [2] [3] A second sequel, Planet Earth III is currently announced and planned to air in 2022.

<i>Planet Earth II</i> 2016 British nature documentary series

Planet Earth II is a 2016 British nature documentary series produced by the BBC as a sequel to Planet Earth, which was broadcast in 2006. The series is presented and narrated by Sir David Attenborough with the main theme music composed by Hans Zimmer.

Ultra-high-definition television Television formats beyond HDTV, 4K and 8KUHD

Ultra-high-definition television today includes 4K UHD and 8K UHD, which are two digital video formats with an aspect ratio of 16:9. These were first proposed by NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories and later defined and approved by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).


In 2001 the BBC broadcast The Blue Planet , a series on the natural history of the world's oceans. It received critical acclaim, high viewing figures, audience appreciation ratings, and many awards. It also became a hugely profitable global brand, eventually being sold to 150 countries worldwide. Feedback showed that audiences particularly liked the epic scale, the scenes of new and unusual species and the cinematic quality of the series. Programme commissioners were keen for a follow-up, so Alastair Fothergill decided that the Natural History Unit should repeat the formula with a series looking at the whole planet. The idea for Planet Earth was born, and the series was commissioned by Lorraine Heggessey, then Controller of BBC One, in January 2002. [4]

<i>The Blue Planet</i> British nature documentary series

The Blue Planet is a British nature documentary series created and produced by the BBC. It premiered on 12 September 2001 in the United Kingdom. It is narrated by David Attenborough.

Alastair Fothergill British television producer

Alastair David William Fothergill is a British producer of nature documentaries for television and cinema. He is the series producer of the series The Blue Planet (2001), Planet Earth (2006) and the co-director of the associated feature films Deep Blue and Earth.

Lorraine Heggessey British television executive

Lorraine Sylvia Heggessey is a British television producer and executive. She is notable as having been, from 2000 until 2005, the first woman to be Controller of BBC One, the primary television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation. She has also served as the Chief Executive of the production company Talkback Thames. Heggessey is now the Chief Executive of The Royal Foundation.

A feature film version of Planet Earth was commissioned alongside the television series, repeating the successful model established with The Blue Planet and its companion film, Deep Blue. Earth was released around the world from 2007 to 2009. There was also another accompanying television series, Planet Earth: The Future , which looked at the environmental problems facing some of the species and habitats featured in the main series in more detail.[ citation needed ]

A feature film, feature-length film, or theatrical film is a film with a running time long enough to be considered the principal or sole film to fill a program. The term feature film originally referred to the main, full-length film in a cinema program that also included a short film and often a newsreel. The notion of how long a feature film should be has varied according to time and place. According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute and the British Film Institute, a feature film runs for more than 40 minutes, while the Screen Actors Guild asserts that a feature's running time is 75 minutes or longer.

<i>Earth</i> (2007 film) 2007 nature documentary film

Earth is a 2007 nature documentary film which depicts the diversity of wild habitats and creatures across the planet. The film begins in the Arctic in January of one year and moves southward, concluding in Antarctica in the December of the same year. Along the way, it features the journeys made by three particular species—the polar bear, African bush elephant and humpback whale—to highlight the threats to their survival in the face of rapid environmental change. A companion piece to the 2006 BBC/Discovery television series Planet Earth, the film uses many of the same sequences, though most are edited differently, and features previously unseen footage.

<i>Planet Earth: The Future</i> television series

Planet Earth: The Future is a 2006 BBC documentary series on the environment and conservation, produced by the BBC Natural History Unit as a companion to the multi-award winning nature documentary Planet Earth. The programmes were originally broadcast on BBC Four immediately after the final three episodes of Planet Earth on BBC One. Each episode highlights the conservation issues surrounding some of the species and environments featured in Planet Earth, using interviews with the film-makers and eminent figures from the fields of science, conservation, politics, and theology. The programmes are narrated by Simon Poland and the series producer was Fergus Beeley.


Planet Earth premiered on BBC One on 5 March 2006 in the United Kingdom. On the same day or in the subsequent weeks or months, the series also began airing in several other countries.

International broadcasters carrying Planet Earth include Australia on ABC and GEM, Canada on CBC and CTV, New Zealand on Prime, the Philippines on GMA Network and GMA News TV, the U.S. on Discovery Channel and Velocity and Science and Animal Planet and Destination America and BBC America.

SeriesEpisodesOriginally airedAverage UK viewers
(in millions)
First airedLast aired
1 1155 March 2006 (2006-03-05)2 April 2006 (2006-04-02)7.81
65 November 2006 (2006-11-05)10 December 2006 (2006-12-10)
2 66 November 2016 (2016-11-06)11 December 2016 (2016-12-11)11.92

British television

The episodes are each an hour in length, comprising the main programme and a 10-minute featurette called Planet Earth Diaries, which details the filming of a particular event. In the UK, Planet Earth was split into two parts, broadcast in spring and autumn 2006. The first five episodes premiered on BBC One at 9:00 pm on Sundays, beginning on 5 March 2006. The programmes were repeated the following Saturday in an early evening slot on BBC Two. Along with its 2005 dramatisation of Bleak House , the BBC selected Planet Earth for its trial of high-definition broadcasts. [5] The opening episode was its first-ever scheduled programme in the format, shown 27 May 2006 on the BBC HD channel.

The first episode in the autumn series, Great Plains , received its first public showing at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on 26 August 2006. It was shown on a giant screen in Conference Square. [6] The remaining episodes were broadcast from 5 November 2006 in the same primetime BBC One slot, following a further repeat run of the spring programmes on BBC Four. The autumn episodes were broadcast simultaneously on BBC HD and were repeated on BBC Four the following week.

Besides being BBC One's featured One to Watch programme of the day, Planet Earth was heavily trailed on the BBC's television and radio channels both before and during its run. The music that was featured in the BBC trailers for the series is the track "Hoppípolla" from the album Takk... by Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós. Following the advertisements, interest was so widespread that the single was re-released. [7] In the United States, the series was promoted using "The Time Has Come" from trailer music company Epic Score, [8] composed by Gabriel Shadid and Tobias Marberger. [9] The Australian trailers initially used Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity from Gustav Holst's orchestral suite The Planets , but later reverted to "Hoppípolla".


The BBC pre-sold the series to several overseas broadcasters, [10] including the Discovery Channel for the United States, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, China Central Television, WDR for Germany, Discovery Channel for India, Prime Television for New Zealand, and C1R for Russian broadcasts. The series was eventually sold to 130 countries. [11]

On 25 March 2007, the series began its run on American television on the Discovery network, premiering on the Discovery Channel and Discovery HD Theater. There were a number of revisions to the original British programme. Actress and conservationist Sigourney Weaver was brought in to replace David Attenborough as narrator, as it was thought her familiarity to American audiences would attract more viewers. The Discovery programmes also used a slightly different script to the British original. The series was broadcast on Sundays in one 3-hour block followed by four 2-hour blocks. The Planet Earth Diaries segments were not shown immediately after each episode, but collectively in Planet Earth: The Filmmakers' Story, a two-hour special which was broadcast after the series had finished its initial network run. Edited versions were later broadcast on The Science Channel, Animal Planet, and Planet Green.

In Canada, the series did not air on the Canadian Discovery Channel, as it is owned by CTV and the Canadian rights were exclusively sold to the CBC. [12]


A hundred years ago, there were one and a half billion people on Earth. Now, over six billion crowd our fragile planet. But even so, there are still places barely touched by humanity. This series will take you to the last wildernesses and show you the planet and its wildlife as you have never seen them before.

David Attenborough's opening narration
No.TitleOriginal air dateU.S. air dateUK viewers
(millions) [13]
1"From Pole to Pole"5 March 2006 (2006-03-05)25 March 20079.41

The first episode illustrates a journey around the globe and reveals the effect of gradual climatic change and seasonal transitions en route. During Antarctica's winter, emperor penguins endure four months of darkness, with no food, in temperatures of −70  °C (−94  °F). Meanwhile, as spring arrives in the Arctic, polar bear cubs take their first steps into a world of rapidly thawing ice. In northern Canada, 3 million caribou complete an overland migration of 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi), longer than that of any animal, and are hunted by wolves during its journey. The forests of eastern Russia are home to the Amur leopard; with a population of just 40 individuals in the wild, it is now the world's rarest cat. This is primarily because of the destruction of its habitat, and Attenborough states that it "symbolises the fragility of our natural heritage". However, in the tropics, the jungle that covers 3% of the planet's surface supports 50% of its species. Other species shown include New Guinea's birds of paradise, African hunting dogs in their efficient pursuit of impala, elephants in Africa migrating towards the waters of the Okavango Delta, a seasonal bloom of life in the otherwise arid Kalahari Desert, and 300,000 migrating Baikal teal, containing the world's entire population of the species in one flock.

The Planet Earth Diaries segment shows how the wild dog hunt was filmed unobtrusively with the aid of the Heligimbal , a powerful, gyro-stabilised camera mounted beneath a helicopter. [14]
2"Mountains"12 March 2006 (2006-03-12)25 March 20078.57
The Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram, Pakistan Baltoro glacier from air.jpg
The Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram, Pakistan

The second instalment focuses on the mountains. All the main ranges are explored with extensive aerial photography. Ethiopia's Erta Ale is the longest continually erupting volcano—for over 100 years. On the nearby highlands, geladas (the only primate whose diet is almost entirely grass) inhabit precipitous slopes nearly five kilometres (3 mi) up, in troops that are 800-strong: the most numerous of their kind. Alongside them live the critically endangered walia ibex, and both species take turns to act as lookout for predatory Ethiopian wolves. The Andes have the most volatile weather and guanacos are shown enduring a flash blizzard, along with an exceptional group sighting of the normally solitary puma. The Alpine summits are always snow-covered, apart from that of the Matterhorn, which is too sheer to allow it to settle. Grizzly bear cubs emerge from their den for the first time in the Rockies, while Himalayan inhabitants include rutting markhor, golden eagles that hunt migrating demoiselle cranes, and the rare snow leopard. At the eastern end of the range, the giant panda cannot hibernate due to its poor nutriment of bamboo and one of them cradles its week-old cub. Also shown is the Earth's biggest mountain glacier—the Baltoro in Pakistan, which is 70 kilometres (43 mi) long and visible from space.

Planet Earth Diaries explains how difficult it was to get close-up footage of snow leopards; it was a three-year process and is the world's first-ever video footage of snow leopards. [15]
3"Fresh Water"19 March 2006 (2006-03-19)15 April 20078.83

The fresh water programme describes the course taken by rivers and some of the species that take advantage of such a habitat. Only 3% of the world's water is fresh, yet all life on land ultimately depends on it. Its journey begins as a stream in the mountains, illustrated by Venezuela's Tepui, where there is a tropical downpour almost every day. It then travels hundreds of kilometres before forming rapids. With the aid of some expansive helicopter photography, one sequence demonstrates the vastness of Angel Falls, the world's highest free-flowing waterfall. Its waters drop unbroken for nearly 1,000 metres (3,000 feet) and are blown away as a mist before they reach the bottom. In Japan, the water is inhabited by the biggest amphibian, the two-metre long giant salamander, while in the Northern Hemisphere, salmon undertake the largest freshwater migration, and are hunted en route by grizzly bears. The erosive nature of rivers is shown by the Grand Canyon, created over five million years by the Colorado River. Also featured are smooth coated otters repelling mugger crocodiles and the latter's Nile cousin ambushing wildebeest as they cross the Mara River. Roseate spoonbills are numerous in the Pantanal and are prey to spectacled caiman. In addition, there are cichlids, piranhas, river dolphins and swimming crab-eating macaques.

Planet Earth Diaries shows how a camera crew filmed a piranha feeding frenzy in Brazil—after a two-week search for the opportunity. [16]
4"Caves"26 March 2006 (2006-03-26)22 April 20078.98
The Lechuguilla Cave Lechuguilla Cave Pearlsian Gulf.jpg
The Lechuguilla Cave

This episode explores "Planet Earth's final frontier": caves. At a depth of 400 metres (1,300 ft), Mexico's Cave of Swallows is Earth's deepest Pit Cave freefall drop, allowing entry by BASE jumpers. Its volume could contain New York City's Empire State Building. In this episode divers explore the otherworldly cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula, appearing to be flying in water (because it is so clear), allowing viewers a glimpse of the hundreds of kilometers of caves which have already been mapped. The Waitomo Caves with the Arachnocampa luminosa is also shown. Also featured is Borneo's Deer Cave and Gomantong Cave. Inhabitants of the former include three million wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bat, which have deposited guano on to an enormous mound. In Gomantong Cave, guano is many metres high and is blanketed with hundreds of thousands of cockroaches and other invertebrates. Also depicted are eyeless, subterranean creatures, such as the Texas blind salamander and (bizarrely) a species of crab. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is featured with its calcite formations. Mexico's Cueva de Villa Luz is also featured, with its flowing stream of sulphuric acid and snottite formations made of living bacteria. A fish species, the shortfin molly, has adapted to this habitat. The programme ends in New Mexico's Lechuguilla Cave (discovered in 1986) where sulphuric acid has produced unusually ornate, gypsum crystal formations.

Planet Earth Diaries reveals how a camera team spent a month among the cockroaches on the guano mound in Gomantong Cave and describes the logistics required to photograph Lechuguilla. Permission for the latter took two years and local authorities are unlikely to allow another visit. [17]
5"Deserts"2 April 2006 (2006-04-02)1 April 20079.23

This instalment features the harsh environment that covers one-third of the land on Earth: the deserts. Due to Siberian winds, Mongolia's Gobi Desert reaches extremes of temperature like no other, ranging from −40 °C to +50 °C (−40 °F to 122 °F). It is home to the rare Bactrian camel, which eats snow to maintain its fluid level and must limit itself to 10 liters (2.6 U.S. gal; 2.2 imp gal) a day if it is not to prove fatal. Africa's Sahara is the size of the United States, and just one of its severe dust storms could cover the whole of Great Britain. While some creatures, such as the dromedary, take them in their stride, for others the only escape from such bombardments is to bury themselves in the sand. Few rocks can resist them either and the outcrops shown in Egypt's White Desert are being inexorably eroded. The biggest dunes (300 m or 1,000 ft high) are found in Namibia, while other deserts featured are Death Valley in California and Nevada, the Sonoran in Arizona, the deserts of Utah, all in the United States, the Atacama in Chile, and areas of the Australian outback. Animals are shown searching for food and surviving in such an unforgiving habitat: African elephants that walk up to 80 kilometres (50 mi) per day to find food; lions (hunting oryx); red kangaroos (which moisten their forelegs with saliva to keep cool); nocturnal fennec foxes, acrobatic flat lizards feeding on black flies, and duelling Nubian ibex. The final sequence illustrates one of nature's most fearsome spectacles: a billion-strong plague of desert locusts, destroying all vegetation in its path.

Planet Earth Diaries explains how the hunt for the elusive Bactrian camels necessitated a two-month trek in Mongolia. [18]
6"Ice Worlds"5 November 2006 (2006-11-05)1 April 20076.37
The aurora borealis in Alaska Polarlicht 2.jpg
The aurora borealis in Alaska

The sixth programme looks at the regions of the Arctic and Antarctica. The latter contains 90% of the world's ice, and stays largely deserted until the spring, when visitors arrive to harvest its waters. Snow petrels take their place on nunataks and begin to court, but are preyed on by south polar skuas. During summer, a pod of humpback whales hunt krill by creating a spiralling net of bubbles. The onset of winter sees the journey of emperor penguins to their breeding grounds, 160 kilometres (99 mi) inland. Their eggs transferred to the males for safekeeping, the females return to the ocean while their partners huddle into large groups to endure the extreme cold. At the northern end of the planet, Arctic residents include musk oxen, who are hunted by Arctic foxes and wolves. A female polar bear and her two cubs head off across the ice to look for food. As the sun melts the ice, a glimpse of the Earth's potential future reveals a male polar bear that is unable to find a firm footing anywhere and has to resort to swimming—which he cannot do indefinitely. His desperate need to eat brings him to a colony of walrus. Although he attacks repeatedly, the herd is successful in evading him by returning to the sea. Wounded and unable to feed, the bear will not survive. Meanwhile, back in Antarctica, the eggs of the emperor penguins finally hatch.

Planet Earth Diaries tells of the battle with the elements to obtain the penguin footage and of unwelcome visits from polar bears. [19]
7"Great Plains"12 November 2006 (2006-11-12)8 April 20076.72

This episode deals with savanna, steppe, tundra, prairie, and looks at the importance and resilience of grasses in such treeless ecosystems. Their vast expanses contain the largest concentration of animal life. In Outer Mongolia, a herd of Mongolian gazelle flee a bush fire and is forced to find new grazing, but grass self-repairs rapidly and soon reappears. Over Africa's savanna, a swarm of 1.5 billion red-billed queleas are caught on camera, the largest flock of birds ever depicted. [20] On the Arctic tundra during spring, millions of migratory snow geese arrive to breed and their young are preyed on by Arctic foxes. Meanwhile, time-lapse photography depicts moving herds of caribou as a calf is brought down by a chasing wolf. On the North American prairie, bison engage in the ritual to establish the dominant males. The Tibetan Plateau is the highest of the plains and despite its relative lack of grass, animals do survive there, including yak and wild ass. However, the area's most numerous resident is the pika, whose nemesis is the Tibetan fox. In tropical India, the tall grasses hide some of the largest creatures and also the smallest, such as the pygmy hog. The final sequence depicts African bush elephants that are forced to share a waterhole with a pride of thirty lions. The insufficient water makes it an uneasy alliance and the latter gain the upper hand during the night when their hunger drives them to hunt and eventually kill one of the pachyderms.

Planet Earth Diaries explains how the lion hunt was filmed in darkness using infrared light. [21]
8"Jungles"19 November 2006 (2006-11-19)15 April 20077.04
A Costa Rican tree frog Red eyed tree frog edit2.jpg
A Costa Rican tree frog

This episode examines jungles and tropical rainforests. These environments occupy only 3% of the land yet are home to over half of the world's species. New Guinea is inhabited by almost 40 kinds of birds of paradise, which avoid conflict with each other by living in different parts of the island. Some of their elaborate courtship displays are shown. Within the dense forest canopy, sunlight is prized, and the death of a tree triggers a race by saplings to fill the vacant space. Figs are a widespread and popular food, and as many as 44 types of bird and monkey have been observed picking from a single tree. The sounds of the jungle throughout the day are explored, from the early morning calls of siamangs and orangutans to the nocturnal cacophony of courting tree frogs. The importance of fungi to the rainforest is illustrated by a sequence of them fruiting, including a parasite called cordyceps. The mutual benefits of the relationship between carnivorous pitcher plants and red crab spiders is also discussed. In the Congo, roaming forest elephants are shown reaching a clearing to feed on essential clay minerals within the mud. Finally, chimpanzees are one of the few jungle animals able to traverse both the forest floor and the canopy in search of food. In Uganda, members of a 150-strong community of the primates mount a raid into neighbouring territory in order to gain control of it.

Planet Earth Diaries looks at filming displaying birds of paradise, focusing mainly on the filming of the six-plumed bird of paradise. [22] "Jungles" served as a major inspiration in developing the video game The Last of Us , which features a mutated strain of the cordyceps fungus infecting humans and almost destroying mankind.
9"Shallow Seas"26 November 2006 (2006-11-26)8 April 20077.32

This programme is devoted to the shallow seas that fringe the world's continents. Although they constitute 8% of the oceans, they contain most marine life. As humpback whales return to breeding grounds in the tropics, a mother and its calf are followed. While the latter takes in up to 500 litres of milk a day, its parent will starve until it travels back to the poles to feed—and it must do this while it still has sufficient energy left for the journey. The coral reefs of Indonesia are home to the biggest variety of ocean dwellers. Examples include banded sea kraits, which ally themselves with goatfish and trevally in order to hunt. In Western Australia, bottlenose dolphins "hydroplane" in the shallowest waters to catch a meal, while in Bahrain, 100,000 Socotra cormorants rely on shamals that blow sand grains into the nearby Persian Gulf, transforming it into a rich fishing ground. The appearance of algae in the spring starts a food chain that leads to an abundant harvest, and sea lions and dusky dolphins are among those taking advantage of it. In Southern Africa, as chokka squid are preyed on by short-tail stingray, the Cape fur seals that share the waters are hunted by the world's largest predatory fish—the great white shark. On Marion Island in the Indian Ocean, a group of king penguins must cross a beach occupied by fur seals that do not hesitate to attack them.

Planet Earth Diaries shows the difficulties of filming the one-second strike of a great white shark, filmed by Simon King. [23]
10"Seasonal Forests"3 December 2006 (2006-12-03)22 April 20077.42
A stand of giant redwoods Trees and sunshine.JPG
A stand of giant redwoods

The penultimate episode surveys the coniferous and deciduous seasonal woodland habitats—the most extensive forests on Earth. Conifers begin sparsely in the subarctic but soon dominate the land, and the taiga circles the globe, containing a third of all the Earth's trees. Few creatures can survive the Arctic climate year round, but the moose and wolverine are exceptions. 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) to the south, on the Pacific coast of North America, conifers have reached their full potential. These include some of the world's tallest trees: the redwoods. Here, a pine marten is shown stalking a squirrel, and great grey owl chicks take their first flight. Further south still, in Chile's Valdivian forests, a population of smaller animals exist, including the pudú and the kodkod. During spring in a European broad-leafed forest, a mandarin duck leads its day-old family to leap from its tree trunk nest to the leaf litter below. The Bialowieza Forest typifies the habitat that characterised Europe around 6,000 years ago: only a fragment remains in Poland and Belarus. On a summer night on North America's east coast, periodical cicadas emerge en masse to mate—an event that occurs every seventeen years. After revisiting Russia's Amur leopards in winter, a time-lapse sequence illustrates the effect of the ensuing spring on the deciduous forest floor. In India's teak forests, a langur monkey strays too far from the chital that act as its sentinels and falls prey to a tiger. In Madagascar, mouse lemurs feed on the nectar of flowering baobab trees.

Planet Earth Diaries explains how aerial shots of the baobab were achieved by the use of a cinebulle, an adapted hot air balloon. [24]
11"Ocean Deep"10 December 2006 (2006-12-10)25 March 20076.02

The final instalment concentrates on the least explored area of the planet—the deep ocean. It begins with a whale shark used as a shield by a shoal of bait fish to protect themselves from yellowfin tuna. Also shown is an oceanic whitetip shark trailing rainbow runners. Meanwhile, a 500-strong school of dolphins head for the Azores, where they work together to feast on scad mackerel along with a flock of shearwaters. Down in the ocean's furthest reaches, some creatures defy classification. On the sea floor, scavengers such as the spider crab bide their time, awaiting carrion from above. The volcanic mountain chain at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean also sustains life through the bacteria that surround its sulphide vents. There are thought to be around 30,000 undersea volcanoes, some of them taller than Mount Everest. Their sheer cliffs provide anchorage for several corals and sponges. Nearer the surface, the currents that surround these seamounts force nutrients up from below and thus marine life around them is abundant. Ascension Island is a nesting ground for frigatebirds and green turtles. Off the Mexican coast, a large group of sailfish feed on another shoal of bait fish, changing colour to signal their intentions to each other, allowing them to coordinate their attack. The last sequence depicts the largest animal on Earth—the blue whale, of which 300,000 once roamed the world's oceans. Now fewer than 3% remain.

Planet Earth Diaries shows the search in the Bahamas for oceanic whitetip sharks. [25]

Our planet is still full of wonders. As we explore them, so we gain not only understanding, but power. It's not just the future of the whale that today lies in our hands: it's the survival of the natural world in all parts of the living planet. We can now destroy or we can cherish. The choice is ours.

David Attenborough, in closing

Planet Earth: The Future

The latter episodes were supplemented by Planet Earth: The Future, a series of three 60-minute films that highlight the conservation issues surrounding some of the featured species and environments. The programmes are narrated by Simon Poland and the series producer was Fergus Beeley. The series began transmission on BBC Four after the ninth episode, "Shallow Seas". [26]

Feature film

Alongside the commissioning of the television series, BBC Worldwide and GreenLight Media secured financing for a US$15 million film version of Planet Earth. [26] This followed the earlier success of Deep Blue, the BBC's 2003 theatrical nature documentary which used re-edited footage from The Blue Planet. [27] The film was co-directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield and produced by Alix Tidmarsh and Sophokles Tasioulis. Only 30% of the footage shown in Earth is new, with the remainder being reworked from the television series to suit the narrative of the film. [28] David Attenborough was replaced as narrator by high-profile actors: Patrick Stewart for the UK market and James Earl Jones for the United States. [29] [30]

Earth had its worldwide premiere in September 2007 at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in San Sebastián, Spain, in Basque Country. [31] Lionsgate released the film in several international markets over the following year. In the United States, it became the first film to be released by Disneynature, the Walt Disney Company's new nature documentary arm. [30] When released on Earth Day 2009 it set the record for the highest opening weekend gross for a nature documentary, and went on to become the third highest grossing documentary of all time. [32] [33] It has grossed more than $108 million worldwide; in the nature documentary genre, only March of the Penguins has achieved greater box-office success. [33]


Critical reception

Planet Earth received widespread critical acclaim. Time magazine's James Poniewozik named it one of the Top 10 New TV Series of 2007, ranking it at No. 4. [34]

In 2019, Planet Earth and its sequel were ranked 72nd on The Guardian's list of the 100 best TV shows of the 21st century. [35]


Jeff Hasler at the 67th Annual Peabody Awards for Planet Earth Jeff Hasler at the 67th Annual Peabody Awards for Planet Earth.jpg
Jeff Hasler at the 67th Annual Peabody Awards for Planet Earth

Planet Earth: From Pole to Pole won the Science and Natural History award at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards in 2007. [36] The RTS also awarded it a Judge's Award and a Photography Award at its Craft and Design Awards. [37] The series picked up two awards from the Broadcasting Press Guild for Best Documentary Series and Innovation in Broadcasting, [38] and won Best Documentary Series at the 2007 Broadcast Awards. [39] At the 2007 BAFTA Television Awards, Planet Earth was nominated in the Specialist Factual [40] and Pioneer Audience Award categories, but lost out to Nuremberg: Goering's Last Stand and Life on Mars respectively. [41] It received three nominations at the BAFTA Television Craft Awards later the same year. George Fenton's original score won him Soundtrack Composer of the Year at the 2007 Classical BRIT Awards. [42] Planet Earth was also nominated for the NTA for Most popular Factual program but lost to Top Gear ( Supernanny and Bad Lad's Army: Officer Class were also nominated).

Planet Earth was recognised by the American television industry, collecting the award for Nonfiction Series at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards in September 2007 and winning a further three prizes in technical categories at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. [43] It also collected two awards from the Television Critics Association in Los Angeles in July 2007 [44] and a Peabody Award in April 2008. [45]

The series was also fêted at wildlife film festivals around the globe, collected multiple prizes at the Wildscreen Festival 2006, the International Wildlife Film Festival 2007 and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival 2007.

Audience response

The credentials of the filmmakers, the size of the production, a high-profile marketing campaign and a primetime BBC One timeslot all resulted in Planet Earth attracting large audiences when it debuted in the UK in March 2006. The first episode, "From Pole to Pole", was watched by more people than any natural history programme since Attenborough and Fothergill's previous series, The Blue Planet, in 2001. [46] The first five episodes drew an average audience of 11.4 million viewers, including the early evening repeats, outperforming even The Blue Planet. [47] When the series returned to British screens after a six-month break, it remained popular but viewing figures did not reach the same levels. The final six episodes attracted an average audience of 6.8 million viewers, appreciably lower than the spring episodes, but still higher than BBC One's average for the timeslot. [48] The BBC's 2007 Annual Report revealed that the series "received the highest audience appreciation score of any British programme on TV this year". [49]

In the United States, Planet Earth drew equally impressive ratings when it premiered on Discovery and Discovery HD Theater on 25 March 2007. The first three episodes (screened back to back) averaged 5.72 million viewers with a peak of 6.07 million viewers, giving the network its third highest audience ever. It was also the most watched Discovery programme since The Flight That Fought Back in 2005. [50] [51]


In February 2016, the BBC announced a six-part sequel had been commissioned, titled Planet Earth II, for release in late 2016, with Sir David Attenborough returning as narrator and presenter. [52] As with the 2006 series, the trailer features the track 'Hoppipolla' by Icelandic group Sigur Ros.


The popularity of the television series around the world translated into strong sales of associated Planet Earth merchandise. In the United States, it became the fastest and bestselling documentary DVD in Discovery Channel's history, and the high-definition (HD) discs generated US$3.2 million in sales in just two months. [53] [54] By the end of 2007, U.S. sales had topped 3 million units, making it the highest-grossing HD title and one of the top ten DVD titles of the year. [55]

In addition, the brand was licensed to other companies to produce children's books, calendars, a board game, jigsaw s, stationery, cards, and more. [56]


A five-disc DVD box set of the complete series (BBCDVD1883) was released in the UK for Regions 2 and 4 (PAL) on 27 November 2006 by 2 entertain. It is presented in 5.1-channel Dolby Digital surround sound and 16:9 widescreen video. The bonus features include Planet Earth Diaries (presented immediately after each episode as for the original TV broadcast) and Planet Earth: The Future . [57] In the United States, two versions of the same five-disc set were released as a Region 1 (NTSC) DVD on 24 April 2007. The BBC Warner release retained David Attenborough's narration from the original British television broadcasts, but the Discovery Channel edition used the alternative Sigourney Weaver voice-over.

HD DVD and Blu-ray

Except for a small amount of extremely hard-to-obtain footage, [58] Planet Earth was filmed entirely in high-definition, and consequently became one of the first television series to take advantage of the new HD disc formats.

The series was released in both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats as a five-disc Region B box set on 12 November 2007. On the fifth disc, the bonus features from the standard-definition DVD set were replaced by two episodes from the BBC's Natural World series, "Desert Lions" and "Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth", both also presented in high-definition. [59]

In the United States, the series was released as a four-disc set in both high-definition formats, [60] the Blu-ray version on single-layer BD-25 discs [61] and the HD DVD set on dual-layer HD DVD-30 discs. [62] The first U.S. high-definition releases omitted the extra disc of bonus features from the standard-definition boxed set, though these extras were included with new material in a special-edition Blu-ray released in 2011. [63]


Four official tie-in volumes were published by BBC Books in 2006 and 2007:

Soundtrack album

On 20 November 2006, a two-disc soundtrack CD was released with a compilation of the incidental music specially commissioned for Planet Earth. The award-winning score was composed by George Fenton and performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and has been performed during "Planet Earth Live" events in the United States and the United Kingdom.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Further reading