When it comes to nature documentaries, no other team have managed to capture the majesty, beauty and breathtaking awe of the natural world quite like the BBC. After the incredible efforts of both Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II, the BBC return for another slice of natural history, this time on a much more intimate scale. Instead of a globe-trotting adventure, we follow one animal family for the entire 50 minute run time of each episode. This interesting choice is one that helps Dynasties become a much more emotionally charged series than ever before as we watch these animals grow up and try to carve their place in an ever-evolving world.
The series begin with Chimpanzee, a story about a turbulent chimpanzee hierarchy, overseen by leader David. In-fighting and scheming dominate this episode as we get our first taste of what’s to come in this series. From the lush tropics of the jungle to the bleak Arctic desert, Dynasties then shows us an entire Emperor penguin colony in an episode that does feel a little familiar for anyone who’s followed these documentaries before. Thankfully, this story is one of very few blemishes in an otherwise excellent series. From here, the rest of the episodes show us two of the more prolific big cats, Lion and Tiger, with an incredible cinematic episode about Painted Wolves nestled between them.
When it comes to the overall consistency of the season, Emperor and Tiger do stand out here as the weakest episodes. Emperor is the only episode that doesn’t follow a single penguin, losing the intimacy the other episodes have. Tiger stands out for a different reason, as a much more sombre, reflective episode than the others which are full of tension and breathtaking fights. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does offset the pacing somewhat when you watch these episodes back to back.
The overall production value and camera work this year is absolutely sublime though. There’s a whole range of different camera techniques used and the welcome inclusion of the “On Location” segment at the end of every episode guides us through the process the camera crew take to capture these amazing shots. From state of the art night-vision cameras to static tripods and drones, there’s an impressive array of talent and cutting-edge technology used in the series and it really shows.
It’s worth mentioning the music too, and not just because I reviewed the soundtrack recently. The overall sound design and array of music used in the show enhances every scene. Going back and watching some of the scenes on mute gives a completely different experience and a lot of this is thanks to the emotional resonance the music gives. Fight scenes are accompanied by booming, fast tempos while other periods show off a more playful, bouncy side with lighter tracks, all with an undertone of classical music conventions. It’s something these documentaries have done an incredibly good job with and thankfully this trend continues with Dynasties.
Given the artistry and impressive work done in the series as a whole, it’s difficult to find many blemishes in an otherwise brilliant natural history documentary series. David Attenborough caresses the series with his gentle, soothing voice and some of the camera work and general cinematography is outstanding. Dynasties may not have the awe and breathtaking globe-trotting adventures other documentaries boast but it does have a lot of heart. This intimate look at some of the planet’s more endangered species is a timeless reminder that if we don’t help, rather than harm, our natural world we won’t get to experience these magnificent creatures for much longer.