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Series / Planet Earth

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Planet Earth is a Nature Documentary series produced by the BBC Natural History Unit. Presented by David Attenborough, this documentary aims to capture the many habitats and biomes of life on Earth, showing off diverse phylums of animals, plants, and fungi and even rare species never before captured on camera. It was the first documentary by the BBC that was filmed (nearly) entirely in High Definition.

Presented in 2006, the series has been critically acclaimed and is one of the top five highest rated television series on IMDb. It was also a highly popular title on Blu-ray early in the format's life. A sequel series, Planet Earth II, aired in 2016 and a third installment was released in 2023. Planet Earth: Dynasties is a spinoff series based on individual families.

This series contains the following tropes:

  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The males of every species of bird-of-paradise has colorful plumage, and each species has its own unique courtship display.
  • Animal Reaction Shot: Played through clever editing with the capybara in the third episode of Planet Earth II, after it sees the male jaguar kill a caiman.
  • Anthology: The series format follows several animals in different location based on the episode theme. This format has already been used before and reused again in the following BBC blue chip documentary.
  • Badass Adorable: Despite being only a hatchling, the young marine iguana survives being bitten and then dogpiled by eight racer snakes at once, before slipping loose and outrunning them.
  • Badass Crew: The lions and wild dogs hunt in group and are capable of bringing down prey several times bigger than themselves.
  • Bears Are Bad News
    • Grizzly bears appear in the "River" episode, hunting on salmon alongside other predators.
    • Subverted with the polar bear from episode 6. While its still a dangerous predator, the walrus herd is just way more powerful and the bear is weak due to starvation.
  • The Catfish: Giant wels catfish show up in the finale of Planet Earth II. We learn that they have exterminated the local fish species and have since begun to target bathing pigeons and catch them from the shores.
  • The Determinator:
    • The wolf that chases a young caribou in the premiere. The two just won't give up. Until the caribou finally runs out of stamina...
    • From episode 6, a starving polar bear attacks a group of walrus despite being outmatched and too weak. It doesn't end well.
    • From Planet Earth II, the marine iguana hatchling running away from the racer snakes. Not even getting bitten, caught, and strangled by dozens of the things stops it from breaking free and running.
  • Endangered Species: Every episode from both series always feature vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered species.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: Happens every time a predator is detected, especially near the waterhole.
    • Also lampshaded when the crew film penguins on a volcanic island.
    If they all start running for the sea, we're going to call for the boat pretty quick.
  • Herbivores Are Friendly: Played straight most of the time. Though some species might be aggressive and can be very dangerous if provoked, such as the elephants and cape buffalo.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Well, not human, but cannibalism shows up more than once.
    • In the aftermath of the chimpanzee battle, one slain juvenile is butchered and eaten by the victorious tribe. The camera angles and greenery block us from seeing most of the gruesome details, but it's still pretty unpleasant.
    • As if the racer snake episode wasn't horrifying enough already, the crew confirmed they witnessed several instances where starving snakes killed and ate each other out of desperation, but they cut it from the episode because the footage was just too horrific to show.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The Butcher Bird featured in season two's "Deserts" pierces its prey's bodies on spiny plants to keep its food away from scavengers and take the food apart at its leisure.
  • Imprinting: Young birds do this in several episodes to learn how to survive from their parents. Notably the ducks from the first episode. Several primates also do this as well.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Narrator David Attenborough can dip into this once in a while. For example, in the "Jungles" episode of Planet Earth II, he quips that the swordbill hummingbird went to "great lengths" to avoid competing with other animals for nectar while the camera focuses on its beak (which is longer than its body).
  • Intellectual Animal: Primates and dolphins show their intelligence by using tools or using unique tactics to get their food.
  • Interspecies Friendship: More partnership than friendship. Usually different species of animals work and live together as a form of protection, such as the deer that rely on the monkeys as a warning system if predators like tigers approach. The "Shallow Seas" episode also shows a rare version where predators of different species work together to get their meal.
  • Made of Iron: Despite being savagely bitten and clawed by the desperate polar bear, the walruses in episode 6 manage to shrug off the bear's attacks and return to the water with little more than scar damage.
  • Mama Bear / Papa Wolf: When the lone polar bear in episode 6 attacks the walrus colony, all the adults circle the wagons with their own bodies around the vulnerable young to keep the bear from getting at them. One mother even throws herself on top of her pup to shield it from the bear with her own body, although eventually she manages to shake it off and send it running.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Played with the "Cities" episode from Planet Earth 2. We see various animals that are not supposed to live in or near the city, such as leopards, hyenas, sea turtles, and giant catfish.
  • Mood Whiplash: A particularly jarring one in the "Ice Worlds" episode, where we go from a heartfelt and touching scene of newly-hatched baby penguins interacting with their new world to a scene of a large group of baby penguins lost in a blizzard.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Mandarin ducklings jumping out of a tree in slo-mo with dramatic music in "Seasonal Forests".
  • Nature Documentary
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile:
    • The Nile crocodile and the caiman make an appearance in the series.
    • The mugger crocodile tries to play this trope, but the otters it tries to attack prove to more powerful than they look.
    • The caiman from Planet Earth 2 at first seems to play this trope, only to be easily caught and killed by a male jaguar.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Komodo dragons from the second series. They might be incapable of breathing fire, but that doesn't make them any less deadly.
  • Panthera Awesome: From the infamous lion and tiger, to the rare Amur leopard and snow leopard. The snow leopard in particular is harder to film than any other creatures in the series.
    • The second series also features the jaguar and Indian leopard.
  • Predators Are Mean: Averted, as while sometime they act as an antagonist to the focus animal, they are shown as merely trying to survive. They also being portrayed sympathetically when they are the focus animal.
  • Professional Killer: Ambush predators such as carnivorous insects, big cats and snakes act as this. Their prey often never see them coming before its all too late.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Usually averted being a nature documentary, but the racer snakes hunting the baby iguanas from the first episode of Planet Earth II are easily one of the most terrifying creatures in the entire series.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The wolf from the first episode, just won't give up...
  • Taking the Bullet: A mother walrus covers her pup with her own body to protect it from the attacking polar bear. Despite the bear clawing and biting her savagely, she survives the encounter and scares the bear off.
  • Threatening Shark: The great white shark makes an appearance in the premiere and latter in the Shallow Seas episode. Other species of sharks also appear in the final episode.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • The African painted dog, lions, dolphins, sea birds and the carnivorous fish from the Amazon river use this tactic to kill their prey.
    • The sea snakes from the Shallow Seas episode also use this tactic and work together with a group of predatory fish.
    • Racer snakes trying to catch marine iguana hatchlings. It's not a coordinated effort, but because food is so scare on such small islands the snakes will do anything to get one meal.
    • The plague of locusts depicted in the Deserts episode of the second series. They are stated as being capable of completely defoliating thousands of acres of green land every day.