On the Planet collection.

For the Star’s birthday you bought him a box set of David Attenborough documentaries, the Planet collection to be exact.

You hadn’t watched it yourself. In fact it’s been a long while since you watched any animal documentaries really. So in your head, you envisaged hours and hours of beautiful shots of animals prancing artistically across the screen with a little light commentary in that distinctive voice telling you various interesting facts about each one. Where they live. What the prancing means. Why they have a blue bottom. What they eat. Oh.

Yes, oh. Because of course when it comes to animals, what they do most of is fight to decide who gets to mate, display themselves in order to find a mate, mate and then eat each other. Or rather, eat each other’s babies. And so the Planet collection, all 42 discs of it, basically consists of many many sad little deaths, lovingly filmed, interspersed by energetic sex.

OK, fine. The Star is fairly robust about these matters. But it has to be said that by disc 5 or so you were getting a bit fed up of how the programme makers were milking the situation for every last drop of melodrama. Cue the ominous music as a cute little duckling hoves into view followed by an arctic fox. Hear Sir David’s voice drop an octave or so in anticipation. Watch the chase! Notice how Sir David refuses to be drawn on the outcome! Now we have suspenseful music! And! The duckling gets eaten.

Not absolutely every time though, which you feel is particularly cruel. Because now every time the soundtrack starts doing the Jaws thing you keep watching hoping that this time, this seal/ calf/ rabbit-like mammal/ elephant/ penguin/ whale baby will be one of the lucky ones. You really wish they could have been a tad more matter of fact about the whole thing.

So you and the Star spent the first play through taking it in turns to clutch at each other and hide behind the sofa, because even the hardened naturalist your son is most of the time is not immune to having his withers wrung by manipulative TV-makers. But now he has seen pretty much all of the deaths more than once, he is once more blase about the whole affair and ready to soak up all the other little details the producers couldn’t quite cut out in order to make way for more blood. And you confess to being quite interested in the documentaries about the making of the series that they end each programme with too, so everybody is happy.

Still, for your next foray into the world of animal programmes you will be trying to stick to something a little lighter.

Any suggestions?

Also, on a related note, this: A toddler’s Guide to… the Natural History Museum.


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