At last, I have watched every episode of Planet Earth, the BBC nature documentary that aired on the Discovery Channel. Except “nature documentary” doesn’t even begin to describe it, because as the extremely ambitious title implies, this is our world as you’ve never seen it before. It says that in the opening credits, but it’s actually true. I have never seen anything like a salamander with no eyes or a bird puking out its own nest.
Here is the thing: they recorded new narration for the American version with Sigourney Weaver replacing David Attenborough, which seems unnecessary since there isn’t an actual language barrier and it’s unlikely they were using words like “quid” or “bollocks” that would confuse American audiences. But Sigourney Weaver does have a great voice, and since she starred in the Alien movies I feel like she can take all the gross stuff she’s narrating. Like, if that giant centipede tried anything, Sigourney Weaver could dunk it molten steel and eject it into space. If it came to that.
But I believe the narration has been rewritten for us as well, because it’s not very good, and it can’t be England’s fault because they invented Shakespeare or something.
Basically, every episode contains several variations of the following lines:
– “It’s called [location], and it’s the [adjective]est [noun] in the world.”
– “[location]. It may seem impossible that any creature could live here, but look closer and you will see an abundance of life.”
We get it, Sigourney Weaver. Life is everywhere. Yes, even on the bottom of the ocean. Yes, even in rivers of hydrochloric acid. She’s all, “You wouldn’t believe–” Yes, I would. I still think it’s amazing, and I can’t wait to see it, but I get it. (Also, and I don’t know if David Attenborough did this or not, Sigourney Weaver occasionally speaks for the animals, like “Yum!” or “Got one!”)
Of course, everything Sigourney Weaver shows us is amazing. It’s totally worth the narration to see an entire time-lapsed day in the Arctic where the sun never goes down. I’ll watch anything in time-lapse, especially plants growing or high-speed starfish chases. (YES, PLANET EARTH HAS A HIGH-SPEED STARFISH CHASE.) In the “Mountains” episode, I even enjoyed watching time-lapse monkeys and all they did was eat grass.
Planet Earth is at its most amazing when it shows us the grossest, weirdest shit that you wish only existed in your nightmares, such the episode called “Caves” where a glow-worm snares and devours insects alive. In the same episode, a bat falls into a sea of its own shit and is eaten alive by giant cockroaches. Like, seriously, planet Earth needs to get it together. That is nasty.
So, of course, I was looking forward to the episode called “Ocean Deep” because I watched Blue Planet and I know what goes on down there. I’ll give you a hint: IT’S SO GROSS (and amazing). So we get down to the bottom of the ocean, where there’s zero sunlight and “snow” made of dead animals from higher in the ocean is falling everywhere, because planet Earth can’t stop being disgusting. And Sigourney Weaver introduces a new animal called “Vampiro Toothus” (I know that’s misspelled, but I want you to know how I heard it). Dan and I paused the TV just to throw around some ideas of who Vampiro Toothus might be friends with (“Fangor Monstro,” etc.). That is a ridiculous name for an animal.
AND THEN Sigourney Weaver continues, “It’s a vampire squid from Hell.” And we had to pause again, because now Sigourney Weaver is just offering her opinions when no one asked for them. I mean, “from Hell”? Is that true? It seems a little unfair. It’s just a little squid trying to live its life. Then Sigourney Weaver comes along in a submarine and calls it “a vampire squid from Hell.” Vampiro Toothus is like, “Yeah, well, I hated you in Heartbreakers. Piss off.” In addition to never substantiating its claim that this animal actually originated in Hell, Planet Earth doesn’t even show Vampiro Toothus taking an interest in drinking blood or living in Transylvania.
Wikipedia tells me it’s actually spelled Vampyroteuthis, and literally translates to “vampire squid from Hell.” Until I saw the infernalis that usually follows, I struggled with the idea that, assuming that vampyro covers the vampire bit, teuthis must translate to “squid from Hell.” Imagine the demand for such a concept to have its very own word!
Such is Planet Earth. Watch it on DVD now, and see walruses beat up a starving polar bear.