Planet Earth made an emphatic return last week, taking a huge technological step forward and airing perhaps the most dramatic animal encounter ever shot and edited.
There weren’t any moments quite as spellbinding as the marine iguana vs. racer snakes chase in episode two - which centred on mountain-dwelling animals - but there were some beautiful vistas, every shot being a desktop wallpaper in waiting.
Snow leopards bookended the episode, beginning it roaring on a mountaintop like a high-end ident for a film production company and seemingly ending it wounded in a snowy cove. Planet Earth loves to play with our emotions though, and just as we presumed the animals dead, we learned that they triggered a remote camera over a month later; a surprise happy ending. The series overtly discussed its photographic advancements for the first time, Attenborough explaining how remote-operated equipment enabled them to film the leopards better than ever before.
Elsewhere, ibex showed themselves to be incredibly deft movers as they were pursued by a red fox, shifting down cliff faces more skilfully than those skiers you get at the very tops of mountain peaks, and an incredibly elegant bobcat stalked whatever it could get its claws on, leaping majestically from boulder to boulder before pouncing into the thick snow.
The episode’s light relief came from viscacha snoozing in the sun (above) and grizzly bears scratching their itches on trees, while flamingos quite literally walked on thin ice.
Planet Earth II: 17 beautiful stills
‘Mountains’ most impressive moment involved a golden eagle though, which is surprising as it’s not usually the bird segments that catch the eye. The fearsome predator with a seven-foot wingspan dive-bombed the Alps at 200 miles an hour, before settling with grace and dominance on the corpse of a fox, standing over it like a mob boss and sending other scavenger birds scattering. ’Step aside, this feast is mine’ its landing implied, only for it to be usurped by an even bigger eagle - a moment that must have left the cameraman gasping at his luck, but gasping into his hand so as not to scare the gargantuan bird away.
In light of the grim political climate we find ourselves in this week, a new instalment of Planet Earth II really calmed me down, which says a lot about the former given the latter involves visceral death scenes.
Next week, the show will take us to the jungle and the halfway mark of the series, which is really a shame as it always makes whatever lifeforms it casts a lens over completely fascinating.