David Attenborough’s Wild Isles review: ‘Life on Earth meets Wind in the Willows’

Presented on location by the 96-year-old David Attenborough, Wild Isles gives Great Britain and Ireland “the full bells-and-whistles Planet Earth treatment”, said Carol Midgley in The Times. And the results are “breathtaking”. The six-part series doesn’t always make for comfortable viewing – the killing starts barely six minutes in, with a “poor seal pup being tossed around and set upon by a pod of killer whales”. But we then move on to “eagles, dormice and badgers. Oh, and more killing.” Some viewers “won’t be as blown away” by this series as they were by, say, Planet Earth II’s “jaw-dropping scenes from the Galápagos”, but “as with all these films, the effort that has gone into it is first-class”. 

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The series is not short of the kind of “heart-pounding drama we expect of Attenborough”, said Christopher Stevens in the Daily Mail; the difference is, all that is set against “the gentle charm of our familiar countryside”. What you end up with feels like a lovely blend of “Life on Earth and The Wind in the Willows”. 

It’s just a shame that the BBC is airing the sixth episode, examining the decline of natural life, and partly funded by wildlife charities, only on iPlayer. The series is a triumph, agreed Rachel Cooke in The New Statesman. As the BBC cameras “roam from Shetland to Cornwall to Northern Ireland”, excitement rises “irresistibly” within you. “‘I live here!’ you think. In this astonishing place, where there are badgers and bluebells and barnacle geese!” This is “beautiful, extraordinary, wonder-inducing television” to stir the heart.

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