Physical Science Blog

Sir David Attenborough: Get him while he’s hot

February 20, 2008

Last Friday, while the staff of Scienceline was at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Boston, science in general and science journalism in particular got some sad news. Sir David Attenborough, the legendary director of such historic nature films as Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives and Planet Earth, announced that his next documentary, “Life In Cold Blood”, would be his last.

Attenborough is without a doubt one of, if not the, most important nature documentary directors of our time. His films set the gold standard for nature television. His “Life” series in particular went above and beyond in highlighting the vast biodiversity on our planet. Without Sir Attenborough, there would have been no Microcosmos or March of the Penguins. On a more personal note, the episode of “Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives” that featured a robotic pterosaur greatly influenced my own career and research.

While I’m sad that I can’t expect any more amazing, sprawling documentaries like Blue Planet or The First Eden, all is not lost as Attenborough hinted that he will still produce some one-off shows and shorter series in the future. I’d like to take this moment to reflect on the career of a great filmmaker, environmental activist, and in a sense, science journalist with a selection of my three favorite scenes from his documentaries. One is from Blue Planet, one is from The Life of Birds, and one is from Planet Earth. Watch the clips, watch the movies, watch the series, I’d love to hear what you all think of them.


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pterosaur says:

Whilst I completely echo your effusive praise for David Attenborough’s marvellous work, you shouldn’t have pre-empted his retirement. The BBC announced last year that he has signed up for two further major series. The first, on evolution, he has stated in numerous recent interviews that he’s currently involved in scripting. The second, the follow up to Planet Earth, he will narrate.

Stuart Fox says:

My understanding was at this point, those projects would be single episodes, not series. Where’d you hear that they would be series? I’d love to look at the link. That would definitely make me breath easier.

pterosaur says:

Here you go:

Although that article states that he is expected to narrate both series, he has specifically referred to ‘filming’ and ‘scripting’ programmes on evolution in recent interviews. Whether this refers to the Life series, or an entirely different project, I’m not clear.

The Frozen Planet isn’t scheduled to finish filming until spring 2010 so the Guardian got the date wrong for that, but otherwise, seeing as the news came directly from a senior BBC exec, I have no reason to doubt the article.

Stuart Fox says:

The article from the Guardian was written in September, while the Variety article I reference in the blog is from February. Do you think something happened in between? It’s odd that Variety, which prides itself on timeliness and connections, would run a story if there was no news. I’d love to sort this contradiction out, and will certainly update everyone as more news comes to light.

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