Plants — without them life on Earth wouldn’t be possible. Yet, they have lives of their own that are often beyond human perception, which a documentary series upcoming on PBS aims to bring to light.
“The Green Planet,” a five-part series narrated by David Attenborough that airs Wednesdays beginning July 6 at 8 p.m., goes to varied environs around the world ranging from rainforests and mountains to deserts and frozen poles to reveal the often unseen and unknown world of plants, which much like animals must fight for survival with competitors and predators to gain access to much-needed resources, in their case food and light.
David Attenborough hosts “The Green Planet,” premiering Wednesday on PBS. (PBS)
Using state-of-the-art photography systems, the series also captures how social they are, how they communicate and how they care for their young, sick and injured. And like elephants, they do have a memory.
And that’s one of the takeaways of the series for Paul Williams, its director and producer, that plant behavior isn’t all that different from that of animals.
“I hope that people will watch this and they will almost be convinced that they’re not watching plants, they’re watching animals, really,” he said. “Because that was the big challenge of the series, was to try and draw the same empathy from the audience that they have when they’re watching an orangutan or elephants or the other animal stories that we tell. We wanted to film plants in the same way that we film animals and tell the same kind of stories.”
“Scientists are now starting to think of plants very much in animal terms,” he continued. “They have the same strategies, they fight, they raise their offspring, they need to find food, they need to find water. So all the different behaviors that we can empathize with, it’s all there. We just needed a way to bring it to life and that’s where the technology and the storytelling comes in.”
So in Wednesday’s opener, specially built robotic time-lapse photography captures a young balsa tree’s fight to grow up and into the rainforest’s canopy just as a vine is trying to pull it down, a scene that takes minutes to watch but took six months and hundreds of different shots to film.
“It feels like a boxing match,” Williams said. “It feels like a scene from ‘Rocky.’ So it was kind of this immersive, in-their-world type approach that we wanted to take.”