Planet Earth II - A bit like the Apprentice, but with penguins

Sometimes, in my darker moments, I feel like one of the chinstrap penguins of Zavadovski island.

Friday, 18th November 2016, 4:48 pm
Updated Monday, 21st November 2016, 1:26 pm
Chinstrap penguins and their chicks cover the slope of Zavodovski Island, an active volcano in the Southern Ocean

These little fellas, desperate to find some fish for their penguin children, hurl themselves from cliffs into the merciless breakers of the Southern Ocean, only to be flung back on to the razor-sharp rocks.

Time and again they make this bid for the open sea, and time and again they are dashed against the cliffs. Some are lucky, and emerge from the water with a couple of new scars to boast about. Others are not so lucky, and meet a sticky end.

The whole of Planet Earth II (Sundays, BBC1, 8pm) was like this, showing us how brutally tough nature can be.

The point, as the reassuringly soft tones of Sir DavidAttenborough told us, was to show how much tougher life had got for the planet’s critters inthe years since the first, landmark series of Planet Earth 10 years ago.

Climate change is destroying habitats, humans are reaching previously inacessible places, and bringing foreign pests with them.

The red crabs of Christmas Island, for instance, on the annual mass migration to the sea, they now have to contend with yellow crazy ants spraying acid in the eyes and mouth. Blinded and stricken, they stumble about for a bit before giving up and dying before they reach their destination.

Each new sequence brought with it jaw-dropping photography, none more so than the film from the Galapagos islands, which captured marine iguana hatchlings in a deadly competition with a nest of racer snakes.

With more tension and horror than any Hollywood blockbuster, this was one of the few ‘oh my God’, moments on TV this year.

It truly was stunning, and by showing how difficult life finds mere basic survival, it’s message is that we shouldn’t be making it harder by our own, thoughtless actions.

Talking of thoughtless actions, the various nincompoops, egotists and mini-Napoleons of The Apprentice (BBC1, Thursdays, 9pm) are still busy making me shout at the TV.

However, this week’s task, in which Oscar the Grouch impersonator Lord Sugar got the two teams to scour night-time London for a list of random items, got me thinking.

If I find them infuriating, maybe I’m the problem. I’ve never had much ambition, much drive. I’ve had time to read, indulge my idle curiosity. I’ve not been busy trying to build a business since I was a teenager, attempting to get funding for my next big idea.

So the next time I pour scorn on one of the candidates for not knowing where Morocco is, I will picture them as little chinstrap penguins, ceaselessly throwing themselves into the sea of business ambition, and being thrown back on to the rocks of failure. And weep one single tear.