The Hunt is a brand new BBC One natural history series, produced by the team behind Planet Earth and Africa, that looks at the relationship between predators and prey. Narrated by David Attenborough, the first episode foreshadowed that this series will be just as remarkable as the team’s previous endeavours.
The first episode looked at the struggles predators of all shapes and sizes face, from insects to crocodiles, in the pursuit of food. The programme contains plenty of humour, albeit slightly dark: a grasshopper who strikes out and successfully catches a small insect, is then devoured by a disembodied tongue that turns out to belong to a peckish lizard in a moment that seems too perfectly cinematic to be real.
There are wonders throughout the programme; the Darwin’s Bark spider, only the size of a thumbnail and able to shoot 25 meters of silk that is tougher than steel in a continuous flow across a river, acting as a cat’s cradle to trap flies. Making spiders into pleasurable viewing is hard, but the visual spectacle of this tiny spider producing shimmering silvery threads, accompanied by beautiful music, is hard to resist. The Hunt was scored by Steven Price, who won an Oscar for the Gravity soundtrack, and his contribution amplifies the drama of the chase.
The Hunt aims and succeeds in portraying predators not as bloodthirsty killing machines, but as intelligent and diligent animals who, like us, must eat. Until now our reluctance to recognise where our food comes from has made watching lions pounce on flagging zebras uncomfortable viewing, but The Hunt acknowledges the struggle to remain at the top of the food chain. A leopard attempting to catch an impala lies in wait in a ditch, and after repeated misses it’s hard not to side with the leopard. Another sequence shows a crocodile that hasn’t eaten for a year, failing again and again to catch a wildebeest; when he eventually latches on and drowns it, despite the violent end, there is a sense of triumph.
David Attenborough’s brilliant narration gives a real sense of story to each hunt and builds tension in every scene. Yet the programme has its sadder moments. A whale travelling with its calf is surrounded by orcas, but luckily two male whales come to the rescue and flank the mother and calf in a truly spectacular display of care. But as soon as they think they’re safe, the orcas return and despite the mother’s attempt to shield the calf, the orcas’ cunning wins out.
The episode was gripping from beginning to end, including the behind-the-scenes footage of the camera crew lying in wait for the elusive crocodiles. Episode two looked at how predators and prey are united in their battle against the elements in the Arctic. The final episode of the series will look at the effects human evolution has had on the planet: climate change, and how predator, prey and humans will have to use all their reserves to adapt and survive the uncertain future ahead.