Attenborough’s on-screen swan song is a magnificent British beauty

Wild Isles is likely to be Sir David Attenborough’s last series to be filmed on location – Alex Board/BBC

Wild Islands will probably be the last natural history series with David Attenborough on site, we are told. Age is catching up with him, but my goodness, for 96 he’s doing incredibly well. Here he’s standing on a cliff or sitting next to a colony of puffins, still full of enthusiasm and putting people half his age to shame.

It’s also his first groundbreaking series set in the UK. The producers know they have a lot of work to do here, because how can a dormouse living just outside of Oxford keep up with the great migration across the Serengeti?

Well, they start with killer whales. Orcas reliably make good television. There’s something scary about them, although I might only think so because I once saw that crazy 1970s movie Orca, where one of them held a very personal grudge against Richard Harris. The footage, shot partly by drone and partly by a camera on a boat (as explained in one of those “making of” segments at the end of the show), is impressive. But you know what you’re going to get with a sequence like this: some loud and menacing music, and then it’s a curtain call for a cute little seal.

These shows can get a bit predictable. Everything is haunted by something. When the dormouse came out of its den at night, you thought: Come on, where’s the owl? In fact, one appeared.

The program hopped from here to that and wasn’t particularly cohesive, but let’s put that down to the fact that it’s the opening episode that’s meant to give us a taste of what’s to come. Future episodes will be divided into Woodland, Grassland, Freshwater and Oceans. The environmental message was clear in places, such as when we were told that overfishing and climate change had affected the numbers of sandeels on which puffins feed, but in other places it was underexplained: why exactly is Britain one of the most natural? -exhausted countries of the world?

However, some of the scenes were brilliantly done, notably the filming of two sea eagles chasing a goose in the Hebrides. Heart-to-mouth stuff, although the shot of a feather in the water after the goose bit the dust was felt redundant. In this series, there’s an occasional feeling that the producers are trying to increase drama for fear that the lack of big cats or tropical rainforests will cause us to switch off. The manipulative music – here’s some tension folks – is omnipresent. There is no need, as the combination of beautiful photography and Attenborough’s passion for the outdoors is enough.

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