TV

What hope for penguins and humans alike after David Attenborough is gone?

The world's most famous naturalist's new programme Dynasties is predictably brilliant. But, asks Lucy Sweet, who's going to warn us about all the scary stuff after Sir David goes to the great glacier in the sky?

Once upon a time, David Attenborough’s mellifluous tones comforted me. He hung out with gorillas, and fitted into that Richard Briers/John Noakes category of thoroughly good eggs. Now, though, whenever he’s on TV warning us of the mindless destruction humans have caused to the planet over a massive panoramic tracking shot of the Brazilian rainforest, it gives me a panic attack.

So I’ve had to psyche myself up to watch Dynasties. Luckily, it looks good on my new big telly, which is quietly heating up the planet to the same temperature as a molten microwaved burger. And it was about PENGUINS the other week, which is always good for a laugh. Look at them with their flippers and funny feet! I mean, get some arms!

However, there’s not much good news in nature at the best of times, and the life of an emperor penguin is an arduous parade of sub-zero waddling, shivering and having their babies cruelly snatched away. Of course, there are moments of levity – penguin couples do a sexy synchronised courtship dance involving loved-up eyes and exquisite chest bumps, which makes it all the more amusing when he shags her really badly and falls off. (Fair enough, he’s doing it with no hands, but, mate, sort it out.) In the background, other penguins are merrily slapping each other ineffectually with their tiny flippers, which is pretty hilarious. And male penguins really put the work in. The boys look after the eggs while the females get food, and when the winter weather gets really bad they create the most spectacular display of cooperation in nature; a massive huddle of lovely warm dudes, looking after their kids. Take note, human guys!

This series will pick up awards like, well, most people p-p-pick up a Penguin

But Pingu it ain’t. They must fight for survival during the coldest and cruellest winter on Earth, which regularly hits -60 degrees Celsius. Chicks are kidnapped from their parents, icicles form on beaks, frozen eggs and corpses are strewn everywhere and one mother has to abandon her fluffy child to its doom on a polar ice ridge. And don’t talk to me about the little month-old chicks lost in a blizzard, crying for their mammies in the frozen wastes.

Then it gets even worse – the rising sea levels and the risk to the penguin life cycle, which could wipe them out. As always, this miserable news is accompanied by incredible cinematography, insane attention to detail and spectacular post-production which will help this series pick up awards like, well, most people p-p-pick up a Penguin. But David isn’t going to be around to warn us forever. Nature is a cruel mistress, and what will happen when he inevitably shuffles off this mortal coil? Will the ice caps just decide to dramatically melt and collapse, like someone who got dumped on Love Island? Is he actually propping everything up? Hold me, I’m scared.

Dynasties is on BBC One on Sundays and on iPlayer

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