The Green Planet – Season 1 Episode 1 “Tropical Worlds” Recap & Review

Tropical Worlds

There’s always something special about a David Attenborough documentary. When it comes to the “Planet” anthology (Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Our Planet and Frozen Planet) there’s always something momentous about these milestone achievements. Starting 2022 off with a bang, The Green Planet turns the attention over to the magical and often overlooked world of plants, and this first episode certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Episode 1 of The Green Planet specifically hones in on the tropical worlds that our plant life call home. With most of the focus on the rainforest, a lot of this 50 minute episode tackles both the symbiotic relationship between plants and animals, along with unique battles from a plants-eye view.

Using the latest in camera technology, ironically dubbed The Triffid, The Green Planet gets closer than we ever have before to understanding the unique and complex challenges plants have in the wild. Nowhere else is that more evident than of the early sequence in the Costa Rican rainforest. Home to an astonishing 500,000 different species of plants, trees and animals, this bio-diverse landscape turns into a battleground when a fallen tree hits the deck.

This battle on the forest floor serves up the first taste of time lapse technology, with winding, whipping vines overshadowed by the monstrous Balsa, the fastest growing tree here. Sped up over the span of a year, the episode quickly shows just how competitive the rainforest actually is.

However, those battles also extend between plants and animals. Several different relationships are explored here – some more deadly than others. One of the more unusual and surprising shows off leaf-cutter ants working with a fungus called Leucoagaricus gongylophorus. While the leaf-cutters bring leaves to the fungi underground, it in turn creates mushrooms that they can eat.

While unusual, it’s a tad disappointing not to see the dangerous “zombie fungus” Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infecting ants and seeing how that disrupts colonies. Given this directly impacts both plants and ants (the focus on this entire sequence) it would have been nice to see this expanded – especially given the technology on offer. Then again, that’s more of a personal gripe than a deterrent to this episode, which is outstanding on all accounts.

Another memorable sequence sees the action move across to Borneo, where meter-wide Rafflesia, dubbed the “Corpse Flower”, blossoms. This whole sequence shows off how the flower works, using flies to transport pollen courtesy of a rancid smell that attracts them.

There are several other moments worth mentioning here too, including eerie glowing bioluminescent fungus and the “7 hour flower” that only blooms for one night. This unique flower attracts bats (and a beaming David Attenborough) in a celebratory look at the more positive side of plant and animal relations. It also shows off a very impressive showcase of technical talent.

And that technical talent can certainly be seen during the “On Location” segment at the end of the episode, honing in and understanding how The Triffid came to be. This sequence alone is worthy of celebration, with the dedication to filming leaf-cutter ants paying dividends to create such unique and incredible shots.

The Episode Review

The Green Planet starts things off with an incredible showcase of technical and narrative prowess. Understanding how the natural world works has always been the big drive of these documentaries, and while Our Planet leaned a lot harder into the human impact and how that’s affected the natural world, The Green Planet shies away from that a little.

Instead, this is much more akin to Blue Planet and Planet Earth, with little digs at our own impact on the environment overshadowed by awe-inspiring sights and sounds.

While it would have been nice to hear more of the natural world, the soundtrack remains enticing and beautifully composed. It’s not quite Planet Earth II levels of brilliance, but it’s still very, very good.

David Attenborough featuring more heavily in this series, with lots of shots of him talking to the camera (and us), is a real bonus too and he is undoubtedly a real British treasure.

Ultimately though, this episode is a reminder that when it comes to nature documentaries, BBC is still at the top of the food chain.

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Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!


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