LONDON — Take away the state-of-the-art drones and the gyro-stabilized 4K cameras from the BBC’s latest blue-chip natural history series, “A Perfect Planet.” Strip out the luscious score and the stunning close-ups of nature at its most intimate.
What you are left with are the same clipped tones and breathy, awe-struck commentary that entertained and educated the viewers of grainy black-and-white nature programs in the 1950s.
It is hard to find anything in modern television that has endured since the middle of the last century. Yet there is the British naturalist Sir David Attenborough and his reassuring, occasionally chiding, voice-of-God narration, virtually undimmed by age, still lending gravitas and luster to sequences of lesser flamingos in Tanzania, land iguanas on the Galápagos Islands and flamboyant cuttlefish off the coasts of Indonesia.
Repeatedly voted both the most trusted and popular person in his home country, Attenborough may be the most traveled human in history. (For his landmark 1979 series “Life on Earth” alone, he traveled 1.5 million miles.) “If the world is, indeed, to be saved,” writes the environmental journalist and activist Simon Barnes, “then Attenborough will have had more to do with its salvation than anyone else who ever lived.”
TV executives have been planning his retirement for more than 30 years, but at 94, Attenborough is still at the top of his food chain and being asked to front some of the most lavish and expensive productions to hit our screens.
Credit…Tui De Roy/Silverback Films
His latest, which debuts on Jan. 4 in the United States on the streaming service Discovery+, was filmed in 31 countries over four years (and six volcanic eruptions). Across five episodes, it will examine the forces of nature that shape all life: volcanoes, sunlight, weather, oceans and the newest: humans.”