Aerial Telly is not a witless contrarian. He is not Toby Dung. And yet he finds a tiny something missing from BBC’s epic and universally lauded Frozen Planet, the David Attenborough fronted seven-parter that records life at the North and South Poles while they remain virgo intacta as the planet’s last wildernesses before Homo rapiens violates them irreparably. Ah the icy wastelands – a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there. First off, it’s undeniably beautiful. My god it’s beautiful. Ice shelves tower and roll like some CGI fantasyscape; Antarctic volcanoes smoulder, growl and blare; Katabatic winds faster than a hurricane howl, whip and knock entire colonies of penguins off their stupid feet. It’s a visual feast at the Earth’s extremities – you can’t take your eyes off it.
And then there’s the Polar bears, those creamy white monsters of the frozen North. Oh you furry assassins, you murderous tubs of blubber and guts, you 2000 pound savages. Yes, they are incredible but they really don’t do much. They filmed for two years and all they got in the first episode of the planet’s greatest land predator is it failing to catch a seal then falling asleep for six months. “9 out of 10 polar bear hunts end in failure” Attenborough tells us. No fecking wonder they’re endangered. I’ll not lie – it’s a bit of a letdown.
“Then there’s the Polar bears, those creamy white monsters of the frozen North. Oh you furry assassins, you murderous tubs of blubber and guts, you 2000 pound savages. Yes, they are incredible but they really don’t do much.”
Fair’s fair though, there’s more to the polar bear than hunting and fishing. Homeboy is all about the pussy and if you doubt it Frozen Planet demonstrates this wonderfully with footage of Br’er Bear fighting off multiple love rivals for his honey over a period of weeks and the image of this great warrior, white fur soaked in his own blood, battered, bitten and punchdrunk, yet still determined to tap that ass is a powerful walking metaphor for the things men do for love.
There is a sense that less happens at the top and tail of the world but maybe that’s the nature of things. The rainforests teem with life – birth, death, and decay happen at lightning pace fuelled by the damp and heat. These are the poles. The pace is literally glacial. This is the Antarctic where Scott, Oates and the men froze like Iceland chicken nuggets and the Arctic where a night can last for months. This is the North, son – we do what we want.
“This is campaigning TV and only a degenerate shit eating tit licker would argue that that wasn’t a good thing.”
Get beneath the ice though and it’s a different story. Pound for pound The Antarctic is the richest ocean on the planet. It’s a fish metropolis – the biodiversity is unreal. And yet its ecosystem is fragile. There’s a not so subtle ecological message on Frozen Planet and they make explicit that it is a time sensitive project. Global warming means the poles are softening and everything is getting a bit slushy – the polar regions as we know them are disintegrating, so we chronicle them while we can. In that sense this is campaigning TV and only a degenerate shit eating tit licker would argue that that wasn’t a good thing.
Attenborough is Attenborough of course with his movie star voice, professorial air and quiet authority. He is so BBC it’s not funny. It’s telling that people are using Frozen Planet as a walking argument for the BBC and the license fee and on this you cannot argue. Television is a show-and-tell medium and those stunning high-def images and educational content make a potent package.
It’s shot entirely in HD. You can see every snowflake, trace each kink in every crystal formation. Antarctic waterfalls are astounding – turquoise and foamy white; killer whales are fairytale beasts of the deep; penguins are Walt Disney comedy automatons.
For a show where nothing happens, it’s pretty fucking good.
The verdict on Frozen Planet: Hey ladies: what’s cooler than being cool?
Marks out of 10: 7.5
Imagined: Wednesday, 8 November 2011