Sunday 13 November 2016

Snakes on a plain

Despite the odd fakery scandal, the BBC's Natural History Unit remains one of the corporation's crowning glories, and it's one of the few things that BBC defenders and BBC critics generally agree on.

I wasn't intending to watch it but, just after Sunday dinner today, I popped on the TV and switched to BBC One, not knowing what was on. I saw an iguana and then some snakes and I immediately knew it was that scene from the latest David Attenborough spectacular Planet Earth II - the one people have been raving over and which I wasn't entirely sure I actually wanted to watch.

I'm glad I did though. It was absolutely stunning camerawork, and I can well see why it's been called 'the stuff of nightmares': Racer snake heads spouting like malevolent flowers from the rocks in huge numbers and then sliding out en masse after newly-hatched iguanas, then living up to their names and racing after those newborn lizards over the sands and shingle, coiling around any they catch in a writhing frenzy and swallowing them live.

Having Hans Zimmer of Gladiator fame's sinister, dramatic music accompanying the drama only added to the thrill and utterly natural horror of what was being shown.

And, of course, typical of this kind of BBC landmark documentary, one of the baby iguanas - the one we were led to focus on - eventually got away, against all odds (and, doubtless, against the pollsters and pundits' predictions), leaving the racer snakes writhing around each other, harrumphing like Polly Toynbee or Bonnie Greer after an election that hasn't gone their way and demanding a re-run. Hurray!

Here's the exciting denouement, the happy escape! (sorry, probably should have added 'Spoilers!' there):

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