Our Planet a ‘brave’ series for strong climate change message, producer says

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Alastair Fothergill praised Netflix for being ‘brave’ over its series Our Planet (Ian West/PA)

The Netflix series Our Planet is “brave” for the strength of its message on climate change and tells “much harder conservation stories” than the BBC’s Planet Earth, its producer has said.

Alastair Fothergill was previously head of the corporation’s Natural History Unit, overseeing documentary series including Planet Earth and Frozen Planet.

He worked as an executive producer on Our Planet, the Sir David Attenborough narrated series which arrived on Netflix in April.

Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey
Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey worked together on Netflix series Our Planet (Ian West/PA)

The programme has been praised for presenting the threat climate change poses to life on Earth in stark terms, while critics often argued the BBC’s natural history shows failed to deliver the message.

Speaking at a Netflix event in Los Angeles, Fothergill said the streaming giant had been “brave” to allow producers free rein over the series.

He said: “It was a brave decision. It was a balance between the celebratory sequences and the harder messages.

“It’s the bravest series in that it tells much harder conservation stories than Planet Earth did and we were very grateful that Netflix supported us brilliantly and left us alone to tell our vision of the series.”

Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough narrates Our Planet, his first appearance for a Netflix series (John Sibley/PA)

Fothergill said making Planet Earth for the BBC was “about celebrating the beauty of the key habitats” and “explaining… the ecology, how those systems worked”.

“But we increasingly felt that the time had come to, yes, celebrate what remains, because there is still a lot of beauty, but to also explain the value of these habitats”, he said.

Fothergill added: “I suppose the key message to Our Planet is nature used to be a nice-to-have, today it’s a must-have, for our own survival, the survival of the planet.

“We felt we needed to do it in a mass audience series, that would be very, very entertaining but wouldn’t shy away from the challenges that those habitats face and our responsibility to preserve them.”

Sophie Lanfear worked as a director on Our Planet and said it was helped by having “a heart”.

She said: “The central narrative that we tried to hang it on, we had a heart. Each film had its own heart and conservation message and some were positive and some were less so.”

Our Planet is streaming on Netflix now.