Nature Documentary Captures Earth’s Wildlife in a New Light

Courtesy of IMBd

Courtesy of IMBd

BENJAMIN MCNEILL, STAFF WRITER

   Nature is boring. The idea of making a show about nature is even worse. Let’s face it: few would watch a nature documentary. Even at midday, watching a nature documentary will usually result in heavy sleep. But wait. Hear me out: there is a nature documentary that does the exact opposite, and what’s more, it’s shot during the hours when people are supposed to be sleeping.

   Plimsoll Productions’ new nature documentary “Night on Earth” was released on January 29, and its production team’s advanced nighttime cameras provide incredible, never-before-seen footage of various plants and animals across the globe during the dark hours of the night. The music, composed by Edmund Butt, is played at times to create atmospheres of intensity, sweetness and playfulness. Director and producer Jo Harvey is one of many who helped masterfully grip the audience with carefully timed statistics and intense scenes in this wonderful limited series.

   In one scene, a snakebird rests high on a branch on a windy night. There is too little light for it to see anything. Defenseless, it’s the perfect target for a hungry ocelot. The ocelot climbs the thin branches with amazing agility. A thermal shot reveals the ocelot peering down at the swaying bird with its claws ready to strike. The only sounds are those of rustling leaves and intense music. After a long, eye-capturing shot, the ocelot throws itself on the bird and catches it with its mouth. The ocelot pierces the bird’s neck with its sharp teeth while it hangs head-first from the tree. An incredible scene, this is just some of the rare footage that makes this documentary unlike any other.

   Samira Wiley and Beren Saat’s narration is simple, and they speak only when it’s necessary, leaving short gaps between bits of information during which the viewer can listen to the mysterious sounds of the Earth’s wildlife. Wiley provides interesting facts, and the combination of sight and sound succeeds in both entertaining and reminding the viewer of how otherworldly our world really is. As scientists discover new behaviors, we must reconsider the things we already know about some of the most iconic animals in the world.

   For example, episode three, “Jungle Nights,” shows footage of something biologists never expected to see: an orangutan wide awake and feeding on berries during the darkest hours of the night. 

   “Maybe orangutans are more nocturnal than we think,” the narrator says.

   Episode six, “Dusk Till Dawn,” includes behavior in orcas that had likely never been documented prior to the making of the show. A family of orcas feeds on fish leftover from a boat’s net. While they feed, they do something unusual. The light from the boat gives the orcas the opportunity to send bubble signals with their blowholes in an otherwise dark environment. The darkness of the night brings out behaviors we don’t see often, if ever, and the creators of the documentary generously share these amazing behaviors throughout the show.

   Overall, this show is awesome. It’s intense, strange, and beautiful, and it shows our planet’s humbling wildlife in a new light. Do you want to watch a mouse and scorpion fight to the death? Do you want to learn about unusual creatures such as the aye-aye? How about watching two frogs have a croak-off? Elephants traversing a city? Polar bears fighting? Freakishly large centipedes? Crustaceans older than the dinosaurs? Just name the animal, and this action-packed nature documentary covers it. Even if you don’t like nature, you should give “Night on Earth” a try. You might even learn something.