Sir David Attenborough is famous for getting up close and personal to nature and wildlife in his natural history programmes, but in recent years he’s more often than not heard rather than seen.
The veteran wildlife film-maker and TV legend returns to narrate a new landmark documentary series The Hunt. And he says that while he never fails to get excited about working on new natural history programmes, he does sometimes miss being on the ground during filming.
In this new series, David teams up once again with executive producer Alastair Fothergill.
The pair worked together on Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Frozen Planet, and their latest series is no less spectacular.
As the title suggests, The Hunt is about predator, prey and the strategies both employ to survive, but it’s not about the kill.
“Every show you’ve seen about predators in the past, they’re always the baddies, they’re the villains, and it’s simply not true, they usually fail,” Alastair explained.
Taking in the vast expanses of the ocean, the jungle and the open plain, The Hunt has been in the making since Frozen Planet wrapped in 2011, with a 30-strong camera crew filming over a period of two-and-a-half years.
Packed with never-before-filmed moments, the series sees Bengal tigers stalking in the forest (a camera was rigged to an elephant to capture it), and the crew even snared footage of blue whales feeding under water.
An elephant was used to capture tiger footage (Silverback/BBC)
As a result, Sir David admitted there’s a big chunk of him that wishes he’d been on the ground, not purely working on the words.
“I saw the first long cut,” he remembered, “and when you see that, you think, ‘Gah, dammit!’ They’ve got these fantastic shots which you never thought was going to be possible.”
Compared to the films being made when he started out, he said The Hunt to represent a “quantum leap” in natural history programming. “If I was not involved in it – because this is the best – I would be upset,” he added.
A polar bear took a liking to the film crew (Silverback/BBC)
The pair agreed that wild animals are rarely dangerous to humans if they’re behaving naturally, but recalled how halfway through filming a sequence between a polar bear and a seal in the Arctic, the team “suddenly discovered it wasn’t the seals they were after – the polar bear was actually hunting the film crew.”
“They like seals,” the producer admitted, “and we’re basically seals on legs, so you can understand that.”
Despite nine series of Life on the BBC, 60 years of experience and global expeditions, at 89, Sir David clearly hasn’t lost any of his sense of awe and surprise at the natural world. So will he ever retire?
“If Alastair asked me to do something, I’d do it – if I could get there in the wheelchair,” he said.
Here’s a taster of what to expect from the series…
Footage of blue whales feeding under water.
The Darwin’s bark spider, which can spray silk up to 25 metres.
A leopard on the prowl in Zambia.
A pack of wild dogs surrounding two wildebeest.
A praying mantis feasting in the Madagascan jungle.
A polar bear making a risky bid to reach guillemot eggs by climbing up a 300-metre sea cliff.
The Hunt begins tonight on BBC1 (Sunday, 1 November) at 9.00pm.