Discovery Channel’s Attenborough nature productions (or more probably known as the Planet Earth style tv shows to American viewers) are always visually stunning but run a little too long for their own good. The latest installment, Frozen Planet, is no exception. Unfortunately, for Frozen Planet it focuses on such a limited subject matter that the problems with its predecessors are even further amplified.
Frozen Planet follows life at the north and south poles. Unlike its predecessors it actually delves into other subjects besides the flora and fauna of the setting. Later episodes in the series deal with human life at the poles as well as a discussion on global warming.
The global warming episode was of particular note as it was involved in a scandal over whether the episode should be even aired in the United States for political reasons. You can clearly tell the episode was included on a last minute whim as David Attenborough narrates it (he also narrated the original BBC version of the series) instead of Alec Baldwin (who narrated all of the previous episodes in the Discovery Channel version of the series). Here comes the shows first major fault. Attenborough is clearly a much better fit for narrating this series. He just seems a natural at it. This is in stark contrast to the narrating style of Alec Baldwin who tries to disguise his voice with a much more serious tone. Unfortunately, it does not work and it just seems like Baldwin is trying to labor through mimicking a foreign accent. I highly doubt the use of a notable American celebrity for narration duties would bring many viewers to the show so it just seems like a waste. It seems to be a poor move on Discovery’s part to ignore Attenborough’s superior work only to give it a sneak peak in the finale.
The series is directed by a crew led by Alastair Fothergill (who led the crews from Planet Earth and Life as well). The series, as usual from this crew, features some jaw dropping sequences. Of particular note is a chase between a large pack of wolves and a large herd of bison, but the series best sequences are those set underwater. Almost every other shot under the water either features an innovative shot or a jaw dropping moment between animals.
The series spends so much time trying to unearth every little detail from so little about the poles that they actually end up with too much material too fit into this series. In its final presentation, the series comes across as disjointed. The first few episodes have a collective theme as they showcase different seasons in the poles. However, the second half of the series seems to focus on a completely unrelated subject from week to week. I’m also pretty sure I saw many sequences multiple times through the course of the series. The series would have worked much better as a four or five episode series (the human survival and global warming episodes especially felt out of place) instead of the seven episode series that was presented.
Despite all of this, Frozen Planet has too much to offer to be completely ignored. Just realize before watching that this is a lesser installment in this nature documentary series. It is a good series, just don’t be coming in expecting the next Planet Earth.