The Best Episodes of Planet Earth
Last Updated: Jan 9, 2019
Planet Earth is a 2006 television series produced by the BBC Natural History Unit. Five years in the making, it was the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the BBC and was described by its makers as "the definitive look at the diversity of our planet". Each 50 minute episode features a global overview of a different biome or habitat on Earth, followed by a ten-minute featurette which takes a behind-the-scenes look.
#1 - From Pole to Pole
Season 1 - Episode 1
The ultimate portrait of our planet looks at the key factors that shape our natural history. The lives of animals and plants are dominated by the sun and fresh water which trigger seasonal journeys. The latest technology and aerial photography enable the Planet Earth team to track some of the greatest mass migrations. In the Arctic spring, a mother polar bear and cubs emerge from their winter den. They have just two weeks to cross the frozen sea before it melts and they become stranded. Share the most intimate and complete picture of polar bear life ever filmed. Further south, time-lapse cameras capture the annual transformation created by the Okavango floods.
#2 - Seasonal Forests
Season 1 - Episode 10
The Taiga forest, on the edge of the Arctic, is a silent world of stunted conifers. The trees may be small but filming from the air reveals its true scale. A third of all trees on Earth grow here and during the short summer they produce enough oxygen to change the atmosphere. In California General Sherman, a giant sequoia, is the largest living thing on the planet, ten times the size of a blue whale. The oldest organisms alive are bristlecone pines. At more than 4,000 years old they pre-date the pyramids. But the baobab forests of Madagascar are perhaps the strangest of all.
#3 - Mountains
Season 1 - Episode 2
Tour the mightiest mountain ranges, starting with the birth of a mountain at one of the lowest places on Earth and ending at the summit of Everest. One of Earth's rarest phenomena is a lava lake that has been erupting for over 100 years. The same forces built the Simian Mountains where troops of gelada baboons live, nearly a thousand strong. In the Rockies, grizzlies build winter dens inside avalanche-prone slopes. The programme also brings us astounding images of a snow leopard hunting on the Pakistan peaks, a world first.
#4 - Ocean Deep
Season 1 - Episode 11
Life goes to extraordinary lengths to survive this immense realm. A 30 tonne whale shark gorges on a school of fish and the unique overhead heli-gimbal camera reveals common dolphins rocketing at more than 30km an hour. Descending into the abyss, deep sea octopus fly with wings and vampire squid use bioluminescence to create an extraordinary colour display. The first ever time-lapse footage taken from 2,000m down captures eels, crabs and giant isopods eating a carcass, completely consuming it within three hours.
#5 - Jungles
Season 1 - Episode 8
Jungles cover roughly three per cent of our planet yet contain 50 per cent of the world's species. High-definition cameras enable unprecedented views of animals living on the dark jungle floor. In the Ngogo forest the largest chimpanzee group in the world defends its territory from neighbouring groups. Other jungle specialists include parasitic fungi which infiltrate an insect host, feed on it, and then burst out of its body.
#6 - Fresh Water
Season 1 - Episode 3
Fresh water is our most precious resource and it defines the distribution of life on land. Follow the descent of rivers from their mountain sources to the sea. Watch spectacular waterfalls, fly inside the Grand Canyon and explore the wildlife below the ice in the world's deepest lake. Witness unique and dramatic moments of animal behavior: a showdown between smooth-coated otters and mugger crocodiles; deep-diving long tailed macaques; massive flocks of snow geese on the wing and a piranha frenzy in the perilous waters of the world's largest wetland.
#7 - Ice Worlds
Season 1 - Episode 6
The Arctic and Antarctic experience the most extreme seasons on Earth. Time-lapse cameras watch a colony of emperor penguins, transforming them into a single organism. The film reveals new science about the dynamics of emperor penguin behaviour. In the north, unique aerial images show a polar bear swimming more than 100km. Diving for up to two minutes at a time. The exhausted polar bear later attacks a herd of walrus in a true clash of the Titans.
#8 - Shallow Seas
Season 1 - Episode 9
A humpback whale mother and calf embark on an epic journey from tropical coral paradises to storm ravaged polar seas. Newly discovered coral reefs in Indonesia reveal head-butting pygmy seahorses, flashing 'electric' clams and bands of sea kraits, 30-strong, which hunt in packs. Elsewhere plagues of sea urchins fell forests of giant kelp. Huge bull fur seals attack king penguins, who despite their weight disadvantage, put up a spirited defence.
#9 - Caves
Season 1 - Episode 4
The Cave of Swallows in Mexico is a 400m vertical shaft, deep enough to engulf the Empire State Building. The Lechuguilla cave system in the USA is 193km long and 500m deep with astonishing crystal formations hanging from its chambers. Although often overlooked, caves are remarkable habitats with equally bizarre wildlife. Cave angel fish cling to the walls behind cave waterfalls with microscopic hooks on their flattened fins. Cave swiftlets navigate by echo-location and build nests out of saliva. The Texas cave salamander has neither eyes nor pigment. Unique access to a hidden world of stalactites, stalagmites, snotites and troglodytes brings a wealth of surprises.
#10 - Deserts
Season 1 - Episode 5
Around 30% of the land's surface is desert, the most varied of our ecosystems despite the lack of rain. Unravel the secrets of desert survival and experience the ephemeral nature of this dynamic environment. Watch Saharan sandstorms nearly a mile high and desert rivers that run for a single day.In the Gobi Desert, rare Bactrian camels get moisture from the snow. In the Atacama, guanacos survive by licking dew off cactus spines. In the USA, the brief blooming of Death Valley triggers a plague of locusts 65km wide and 160km long. A unique aerial voyage over the Namibian desert reveals elephants on a long trek for food and desert lions searching for wandering oryx.
#11 - Great Plains
Season 1 - Episode 7
After filming for three years, Planet Earth finally captures the shy Mongolian gazelle. Only a handful of people have witnessed its annual migration. Don't miss the bizarre-looking Tibetan fox, captured on film for the first time. Over six weeks the team follow a pride of 30 lions as they attempt to hunt elephants. Using the latest night vision equipment, the crew film the chaotic battles that ensue at close quarters.