“Mountains” provides an hour of excellent, pure and engaging television; a visual and emotional triumph for NatGeo.
This Hostile Planet Episode 1 recap for the episode titled “Mountains” contains spoilers.
NatGeo’s new animal documentary series Hostile Planet boasts a recognizable host in Bear Grylls and a wealth of innovative camera technologies, but the secret to its success is an unflinching boldness. And the success of the six-part series, at least if this premiere episode is anything to go by, could be significant. This is excellent television, full of energy and drama, and provides such a compelling degree of immersion that the plight of its various animal subjects is consistently riveting without the need for any bells and whistles.
The bells and whistles are there, obviously; the show couldn’t exist without them. But they’re incorporated so smoothly into the overall package that you can scarcely see the seams. One minute you’re taking in a vast mountain range as a starving snow leopard stealthily stalks its prey, and the next you’re plummeting across the ridges from, quite literally, an eagle’s-eye view.
Hostile Planet is intended as a showcase of animals’ drive to survive in the world’s harshest climates, especially as they continue to rapidly change. The close-up and unflinching perspective puts the animals front and center, with Bear Grylls not doing much more than providing narration, allowing the plights of the animals in volatile climates to speak for themselves. “Mountains” was produced and directed by Mateo Willis, and virtually every segment is breathtaking. It strikes emotional and visual highs effortlessly and immediately and wrings so much tension from each small tale that the overall effect is more potent than the best work of suspense you can think of.
This is a real representation of our world that takes into account how quickly and dramatically it’s changing, and for that alone Hostile Planet deserves its props. But the sheer competency with which the whole thing is put together elevates the footage to new heights — a pleasantly fitting outcome, given the subject of this premiere episode is the highest, most airless mountain ranges on the planet. Rarely has nature been quite this exciting, this insightful, and this engaging; and perhaps never has it looked quite this good.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.