Planet Earth 3
A place of perpetual conflict. Enormous tectonic plates push against one another with enough force to build entire mountain ranges. The ocean patiently and imperceptibly erodes everything from the tiniest island to the largest landmasses on the planet.
Life on planet Earth is conflict. Conflict between nature and the man-made edifices of civilisation. Conflict for resources, conflict for power, conflict for life.
The Earth is a battleground, the stage for a fight that has raged since the earliest creature crawled from the primordial ooze and struggled to adapt and grow in its new environment.
Not long ago in two television series named "Planet Earth" and "Planet Earth 2" we showed you many of the most wondrous and breath-taking examples of life from the depths of the deepest ocean to the centre of humanity's concrete jungles.
We saw that life... life always finds a way.
But that wasn't enough for you, many of you wrote to me even after I asked politely but firmly for you to stop, and you said "Sir David Attenborough, it's one thing showing us the greatest spectacles to be found on the planet, but why do all the cute animals have to die?". I was accused of frightening children, of producing zoological snuff films and pleasuring myself to them in a darkened room perched upon a throne created from the skeletons of one million rabbits while surrounded by Zebra skulls. Audience metrics seemed to agree and I plummeted from #36 on Heat Magazine's poll of Britain's Sexiest Beard Owners to #51, three places behind Bill Bailey. Such was the impact on my finances that I came dangerously close to no longer being a higher-rate taxpayer for the second quarter of 2017.
I have taken your feedback on board, you win. I present to you now exactly what I hope you all wanted, "Planet Earth 3".
Episode 1: Africa
The Kalahari desert in Western Africa, one of the most hostile regions on the planet. The rainy season has gone and even for the animals evolved to live in this environment the next few months will be a constant struggle for survival.
These Zebra are beginning what is the largest overland migration in Africa, they are travelling north, following the scent of rain.
Tonight the Zebra are fortunate, they have found a watering hole that isn't entirely dry. The Zebra drink deeply knowing it may be many days before they do so again. Zebra travel in large herds, there is after all safety in numbers and the Kalahari desert is not a place for loners.
But as the herd moves on this young foal lingers by the watering hole, he is eager to drink his fill and hasn't noticed that the rest of the herd is already far away.
He is not alone.
An African Lioness is slowly creeping up on the foal, he is too distracted by his thirst to notice the tell-tale warning signs. The Lioness inches closer, thousands of years of evolution have equipped her as a stealthy and deadly predator.
The Lioness leaps, the Foal realises too late and he attempts to turn and flee.
Then out of nowhere one hundred bright red balloons fill the scene obscuring camera lens, which is unfortunate as the viewer would otherwise be witnessing something quite incredible.
The Lioness was actually completely full, having eaten half of a large Chocolate Layer Cake at her Cub's surprise birthday party earlier that day. She had only been sneaking up on the Foal because the cake was actually quite stodgy and she was worried that if she ran she would feel very poorly. Having leapt out and played a very amusing joke on the Foal, the Lioness realised that the Foal was all alone and, lashing out with a paw containing 5 razor sharp claws she took the Foal by the hoof and brought him back to his mother, who had of course been very worried. The Lioness had a lovely cup of tea with Mrs. Zebra before bidding Colin, such was the Foal's name, goodbye.
The inexplicable balloons clear as the majestic Lioness pads away away from the watering hole, as she passes she licks her lips doubtless anticipating a delicious dinner of root vegetables, she is careful to skirt round the small pile of bones and striped fur which was in no way connected to Colin or any other Zebra. The Sun sets as the scorching hot day slowly yields to the inky blackness of an African night.
This is nature's true majesty.
Episode 2: India
India is home to over one hundred national parks and together they encompass almost forty-one thousand square kilometres. The environment ranges from soaring peaks to dense forest and jungle, a thriving ecosystem teeming with animal life.
Despite this national parks in India cover only 1.2% of India's surface area and for the animals falling outside these conservation refuges contact with humans is a constant possibility as humanity's insatiable hunger for resources and land changes the landscape beyond recognition. For many of these animals the choice is stark: adapt or perish.
Even within the national parks the impact of humanity is felt as livestock draw predators to human settlements and the resulting conflict creates emnity between the wildlife these parks are intended to protect and their human inhabitants.
This is the village of Navegaon. Ten year old Eila lives here with her parents, life is hard but Eila has known nothing else her entire life.
Today is a big day for Eila she is tending the family cattle alone while her parents are busy in the house.
Something stirs in the trees on the outskirts of the village. It is a Bengal Tiger, a seven year old male, his scarred face speaks of the challenges animals face for survival even here. Drawn to the village by the scent of meat he lurks in the fauna on the outskirts of the village watching and waiting for his chance.
Eila has noticed something in the trees, she doesn't know what it is and while she has been warned about Tigers she feels safe here so she leaves the Cattle and investigates the forest.
The Tiger watches, there is fresh meat in the village but here he sees an opportunity to sate his appetite without risk, he tenses as Eila draws closer and then in a lightning fast motion drops onto the path behind the child.
A frankly huge flock of birds suddenly swoops down from the trees knocking over the camera, the flock is so huge it keeps on swooping, fluttering and singing in a quite deafening perpetual squawk directly into the microphones for at least ten minutes. Preventing the viewer from bearing witness to something quite extraordinary.
The Tiger's name was बाघ, that means "Tiger" in Hindi. Alas बाघ had been the cub of deeply unoriginal and unintelligent Tigers. As Eila spun round, cringing in terror बाघ rose up on his hind legs and with a fearsome snarl chided Eila for leaving the confines of her village and neglecting her duties vis-á-vis Cattle. बाघ then executed a low bow and, with a terrifying charge and a growl insisted on walking Eila home and having a stern talk with her parents. Eila's parents were named निकास (which means mother in Hindi) and Bernard (which doesn't). Both parents, while disappointed at Eila's carelessness were thrilled to meet बाघ, he and निकास had a lengthy and very amusing chat at the expense of their unoriginal and unintelligent parents while Bernard and Eila made a delicious pot of tea. After a highly agreeable cup of tea and several Petit Fours बाघ bade the family farewell and made his way back into the forest thinking only of the Lentil soup he would enjoy when he arrived home to his wife Mavis, he had enjoyed an amusing joke about this with Bernard earlier, and he grinned a tigerish grin as he padded past the spot where he and Eila first met.
The huge flock of birds finally moves on allowing us to catch a fleeting glimpse of बाघ disappearing back into the forest. बाघ briefly pauses and coughs up a child's shoe before vanishing into the undergrowth.
Truly nature is full of wonders.
Episode 3: Hawaii
There are few places on the globe quite as ecologically fascinating as Hawaii.
This, the largest and the southeasternmost of the Hawaiian Islands, is famous the world over for its distinctive fauna, its golden sands and its crystal clear waters.
Islands like Hawaii have long provided life with opportunities for life to evolve and experiment breeding creatures perfectly adapted to the ecosystem in which they live. But this new Eden is home to a vivid example of the power and ferocity of nature. The Volcano Kīlauea.
Kīlauea is over two hundred thousand years old, emerging from the ocean one hundred thousand years ago and dominating the island landscape, indeed her prominence is such that no animal living on the island can escape its influence.
Humans are no different to any other animal, we adapt and change our environment to meet our need to survive. Humans have lived alongside Kīlauea for over one thousand years. The first recorded history of Kīlauea's eruptions date from the eighteenth century. Her power is such that she has been erupting continuously between 1983 and 2018, the longest eruption ever observed in human history. The heat within her walls intense enough to melt solid rock, the magma produced by this process makes its presence felt in eruptions that provide a stark warning to any who doubt the raw power of the natural world.
We find ourselves in the Leilani Estates a neighbourhood in Eastern Hawaii. The neighbourhood lies in ruins, two hundred houses destroyed and a score of people lie grievously injured either overcome by toxic fumes or injured by the lava that rolls through the streets at speeds of almost one kilometer per hour voraciously seeking lower ground consuming anything and everything in its path. Voices cry out for help and the lights of emergency vehicles pulse as residents are evacuated from the ravaged wasteland that was once their home
But now, something quite incredible is happening and there are no balloons or birds to prevent you, the viewer from bearing witness. In fact it's almost as though the camera is running backwards, but be assured nothing has been done to this footage.
The magma is retreating, withdrawing from the streets. As it recedes we can see a metal postbox rise from the magma entirely undamaged and untouched. Firefighters and rescue personnel help the elderly and infirm residents climb back into burning buildings before reversing off down the street at high speed. Two Police Officers help a pair of teenagers off the floor outside a local shop. One of the boys appears to have fallen onto a set of wires, which one Police Officer is removing by means of a yellow device with "RESAT" written on the side while the other officer is administering urgent first aid to the second boy pulling bruises off his face by tapping it repeatedly with a metal stick. It's fascinating to watch these children, their arms now laden with foodstuffs rush backwards into a shop, if we look closely we can see they are stacking the items on the shelves inside.
The power of the volcano is simply incredible to watch, if you've ever played the game Hungry Hungry Hippos it's like that, but with magma, and a volcano. The volcano, acting like a giant vacuum cleaner is drawing in magma from all around. The majesty of the scene is such that it is almost unbelievable to witness. Even as the lava-flow retreats we see a nursery rise from a set of charred foundations at the edge of the estates. Animals have lived closely alongside humans for many years so it isn't at surprising to see the lava-flow produce first a frantic Alsatian dog, then a perturbed looking family of rabbits and now, a resigned looking sea-turtle and hard as it is to believe, an entire pet store.
Then all is still, almost as though the footage is paused, but be assured nothing has been done to this footage. Clouds are still, the lava has disappeared back into the depths of Kīlauea and the whole town is a frozen tableau, nothing seems to be moving.
Nobody is on fire, the pet shop is sold out as all the pets have gone to loving homes, everyone is happy, they are just about to have a big party with cake and a sack race.
This has truly been a journey of discovery. Our planet is home to much that we do not yet understand and even more that we have yet to discover. Planet Earth is our home, our sanctuary, our provider and our protector. There is much that we wish we could have shown you, the hugging Polar Bears of the Arctic Circle, the Great White Sharks whose deepest desire is to take you back to their house to read you an enthralling, if damp, bedtime story and the incredible house constructing tornadoes of the American midwest.
Let us embark now on our separate journeys to make our own stories and experience this, our planet Earth.
What is it you said I should do now? Are you sure? It's something that will engage young people? So I take the microphone and I drop it? On the floor? I put it near my face... I'll just do it on the table...
That felt odd