CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: The only way to get closer to a wolf… is to be eaten by one
Frozen Planet II
Wildlife presenter Ray Mears dismisses panoramic nature documentaries as ‘wallpaper’. If that’s his idea of drab home decor, he must live in a house with a solid gold fridge and silk tapestries underfoot instead of carpets.
The 58-year-old survival expert told an audience at Henley literary festival that he is bored by the ‘endless coffee table shots of gannets diving into the sea.’
Personally, I’d rather listen to Sir David Attenborough describe actual wallpaper than watch Ray on one of his Boy Scout nature treks.
It’s nonsense to suggest that the spectacular ultra-high-definition video sequences in Frozen Planet II (BBC1) are just pretty pictures. The photography is so vivid, and the filming techniques are so sophisticated, that every segment reveals new behaviour — animal secrets that naturalists might never uncover by watching through binoculars in the wild, the Ray Mears way.
Wildlife presenter Ray Mears dismisses panoramic nature documentaries as ‘wallpaper’. If that’s his idea of drab home decor, he must live in a house with a solid gold fridge and silk tapestries underfoot instead of carpets
Only a combination of camera teams on the ground and zoom lenses suspended from helicopters could track a grizzly bear hunting caribou calves on the Russian tundra, as we saw in one dramatic and brutal sequence.
The caribou herd struggled across a fast-flowing river before the bear moved in to pick off an exhausted youngster. There’s nothing cuddly about a hungry Big Ted — the kill was merciless. If Ray Mears thinks that is wallpaper, I don’t want him decorating my spare bedroom.
The drama of a wolf pack sending a herd of bison into a panic and working as a team to bring one down was equally mesmerising, and even more gory.
Video images are now so detailed that we could see the blood on individual hairs around one wolf’s muzzle as she howled to summon the rest of her pack to the feast, in the vastness of Wood Buffalo national park in Canada.
It’s nonsense to suggest that the spectacular ultra-high-definition video sequences in Frozen Planet II (BBC1) are just pretty pictures
We’re the first generation of viewers to have such a close-up experience of wolves hunting and feeding in the icy wilds — unless you count a few unlucky Klondike gold prospectors who got even closer, when they were eaten.
Other marvels included footage from motion-sensitive camera traps in the Siberian forest, showing tigers and Amur leopards. By overlaying the films, Frozen Planet II was able to prove for the first time that these big cats, both close to extinction, use the same paths . . . even seeming to walk in each other’s pawprints.
None of this could be seen by a TV presenter squatting in a hide. It takes a considerable effort, bringing together dozens of the world’s most experienced wildlife film-makers, and sending them on missions that can last years.
Of course, many of the pictures are also astonishingly beautiful. That’s because the remotest parts of the world still are. We ought to be thankful to see them. How anyone who professes to love nature can find that boring is beyond me.
The teens aboard the gargantuan cruise ship Sacramentum are heading to distant places in Wreck (BBC3), though plenty of them won’t live to bring back pictures. This camp horror thriller is a bit confused about its identity. Most of the time, it wants to be a soap mystery, with lots of partying and romances among the young crew.
Now and then, it becomes a fluffier Blair Witch Project, with a serial killer in a fancy-dress duck costume stalking the cabins.
And at odd moments, it turns supernatural, as the ghost of drowned entertainer Pippa (Jodie Tyack) materialises to stare at her brother Jamie (Oscar Kennedy) as he tries to find out the truth about how she died.
The result is a tangle of comedy, snogging and gore. A second series is already in production, though, so perhaps it gets better.
Sugar hit of the weekend: Jo Brand insisted on pronouncing Fruit Pastille to rhyme with Bastille, in The Secret World Of . . . Sweets (C4). Everyone else, even the scientist who tested the recipe, said ‘pastel’. Maybe Jo is more of a Jelly Tots woman.
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