Seven Worlds, One Planet

Benjie Goodhart / 24 October 2019

Sir David Attenborough presents a stunning new BBC documentary on Earth's incredibly varied continents.

Seven Worlds, One Planet, Sunday 27th October, 6:15pm, BBC One

I like to think of myself as having independence of thought, standing out from the crowd. (I also like to think of myself as being a phenomenal athlete, a Brad Pitt doppelganger, and one of the intellectual colossuses of the modern world.) I’d really like to start off this review by saying something controversial and maverick to set me apart from the crowd. But I can’t, because what I’m going to say is a sentiment as unoriginal as it is universal:

I love David Attenborough. I mean, I really love him. I love his voice. I love his knowledge and his passion. I love his decency. I love that some of his best friends are gorillas. And I love that time does not seem to have diminished him one iota. I’m seriously beginning to think that the man is a genuine immortal.

I mean, seriously, how old is he? People started worrying that his latest series would be his swansong about 25 years ago. But here he is, wandering along some very chilly-looking beach for the opening sequence of this series. “Two hundred million years ago, our planet looked very different from what it does today.” You can scoff, but I genuinely think he might know that from first-hand experience!

Anyway, the point is, it was all one continent. No big Brexit debates back then, what with it being one huge landmass. That, and the fact that dinosaurs were absolutely hopeless at setting up enormous trading blocs. But then, Pangaea began to break up, into the seven continents that exist today. This seven-part series looks at life on each continent in turn. Tonight, we start with the most hostile environment on earth: A small-town high street on a Saturday night. Oh no, sorry, Antarctica.

Cue the glorious orchestral theme and slow-mo shots. This is what the BBC does best. It marries with Attenborough’s voice so well. I hope he wanders around home being followed by a full orchestra, so that there is a soaring string section when he asks for a cup of tea, or enquires whether anyone has loaded the dishwasher.

We start with something called a Weddell seal. It’s giving birth. Awww, the baby is cute. I’d love one as a pet, but before you know it, they’re 11 ft long and weighing half-a-ton, and taking up the whole sofa during Antiques Roadshow. Apparently the baby Weddell seal, when it’s born, undergoes the sharpest drop in temperature faced by any animal: from the warmth of the womb to the frozen Antarctic ice. Oh lawks, now a storm is coming in. It lasts for days. All the Weddell seal mothers have to retire to the shelter of the sea. Some of the babies will die. This is exactly why I can’t watch this stuff with my daughter. The last nature programme we watched featured the death of a baby flamingo, and I thought she was going to need counselling.

Then it’s off to meet some penguins. You have to love penguins. After DA, they may be the second-most-lovable thing on Earth. Dear God, but they’re stupid. How are they not extinct? They waddle about, getting lost and falling over, and every other living creature on the continent seems to want to eat them. Other than Elephant seals, who appear to be too lazy to do anything much, apart from lie around. Here’s one absolute whopper of a bull Elephant seal, who has the mating rights to over 60 seals. He has to keep an eye on them, so can’t go into the sea to feed. He’s losing 10kg-a-day. DA says he’s exhausted. Well, you would be if you had 60 partners to keep happy.

There’s a dramatic fight with another bull – they seem to attempt to fall upon each other with their teeth out, a tactic I last saw employed by Luis Suarez at the 2014 World Cup. There’s still time for more heartbreak, in the form of some truly dim-witted albatrosses, and the indescribable beauty of humpback whales in a feeding spiral. It’s all completely magnificent, and majestic, and beautiful. Bravo.

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The best… and the rest:

Saturday 26th October

Great Australian Railway Journeys 1/6, 8pm, BBC Two: The politician-turned-loud-blazered-train-enthusiast travels down under for the latest in his train-y travel series. Episode one sees him travel the Ghan Railway across 2000 miles of central Australia on a kilometre-long train pulled by two locomotives.

For Sama, 9pm, Channel 4: Waad al-Kateab filmed this documentary over five years in Aleppo, as both a chronicle of the war and a love letter to her daughter. The results are extraordinary, and the feature-length documentary has been justifiably garlanded with awards.

Sunday 27th October

Britain’s Biggest Warship Goes to Sea 1/3, 8pm, BBC Two: On board the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth as it embarks on a four-month deployment, featuring brand new Lightning Stealth Fighters on board.

ABBA: Secrets of Their Greatest Hits, 9pm, Channel 5: A night of abbasolutely poptacular Scandi-fun (sorry) kicks off with this, followed by ABBA live in concert, and a look at the nation’s favourite ABBA song.

Monday 28th October

Autumnwatch 1/4, 8pm, BBC Two: The team are back for the next four nights, covering all things Autumnal from their base at the Dell of Abernathy in the Cairngorms.

The Mountain 1/4, 8pm, ITV: A four-part series covering a year in the life of Mount Snowdon, the tallest mountain in England and Wales, and the people who work and play there.

Who Are You Calling Fat? 1/2, 9pm, BBC Two: Nine people living with obesity move in together into an Oxfordshire house to explore what it means to be larger-bodied in Britain today. Continues tomorrow.

Tuesday 29th October

The Great British Bake Off: The Final, 8pm, Channel 4: And so ten weeks of choux pastries, water crusts, Genoese pastries, dough-proving and, yes, soggy bottoms, has brought us to this: The final three. For some time now, it’s been obvious that Steph, David and Alice would be the finalists, and the chances are that Steph will win the whole thing. But stranger things have happened…

Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild, 9pm, Channel 5: Another series of this charming documentary that sees the ever-game Fogle spending a week at a time with people living at the very outer-reaches of human society.

Wednesday 30th October

Children In Need: Got It Covered, 7:30pm, BBC One: Feature-length documentary filmed over 12 weeks of the summer, following ten famous actros as they each record a cover of a famous song for an album to raise money for Children In Need. Those involved include Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Jodie Whittaker, Suranne Jones and David Tennant.

Guilt, 9pm, BBC Two: First of a new darkly-comic four-part drama starring the excellent Mark Bonnar. When two Edinburgh brothers accidentally run over and kill an old man, attempts to cover their tracks start to unravel.

Thursday and Friday

I genuinely didn’t run out of steam here, there’s nothing new on either day. Happy Halloween, funsters!

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