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Review: 'Frozen Planet' Final Episode - Warming Temperatures Affecting Polar Regions And The Whole World

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FROZEN PLANET
'Frozen Planet' With Sir David Attenborough | BBC

Well, the classicists told us long ago that with great beauty there must co-exist great loss. Sure enough, having seduced us with images of bumbling bears, posturing penguins and impossibly cute polar cubs for the past six weeks, Frozen Planet signed off last night with an unblinking exposition of how quickly this ice-scape may all be consigned to history.

Sir David Attenborough and his team were very careful not to lay blame with any culprit for the changes in the regions; instead, they contented themselves with a devastating visual catalogue of proof that global warming currently exists - whatever doubters may say - and will go on to have worldwide repercussions.

We saw many creatures affected. In the north, we watched polar bears on a hunt for food, with prospect of success determined by the ice beneath their feet. As it fragments and shrinks, so does their chance of survival. We learned that neither mother nor cubs may feed again until spring - this, with longer summers of no ice and dwindling bear populations.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, penguins not often seen around the pole at certain times of year, flocked to the new waters.

Attenborough's compassion and admiration was by no means limited to the animal world. He also spent time with native Inuits, forced to adapt their rituals to the changing environment.

And, from our sofas, we watched the endeavours of people who've made it their lives' work to learn about the region, and the creatures within it. A team stood on freezing ice to weigh a mother polar bear to monitor her health, and someone evidently spent many, many hours in hopefully fur-lined boots to supervise a camera charting glacier movement over four years.

But these adventurers all seemed sedate when measured against the intrepid pair lowering themselves on ropes down a vertiginous abyss. These two were intent on collecting ice deposited 10,000 years ago - they were truly abseiling back in time.

Attenborough made the point that the warming of the poles is not a disaster for everyone. The Northwest Passage, cleared of ice in 2007 for the first time in history, promised a faster, cheaper route between the world's two biggest oceans. And some creatures, such as the bowhead whale, could benefit too. It is clear that, for others, only those who can adapt will survive.

Meanwhile, we watched, astonished, as 75 million tonnes of thousand-year-old Greenland glacier fell into the sea.

We saw all this beauty and fragility before Attenborough calmly told us, "The poles - north and south - may seem very remote, but what is happening here is bound to have an effect on all of us around the world."

It is a point he has made often, that if the ice continues to disappear at the current rate, temperatures will rise all over the world, and threaten people's coastal homes.

And he finished with a question: "Animals are adapting, but can we respond?"

In the midst of all this uncertainty and fragility, both of the environment and the creatures within it, it is definitely worth noting the quality of this series continuing up until the very last scene - with photography, music and passionate script combining to transform a complicated scientific story into a natural fairytale.

And at the centre of it all, the totem - Sir David Attenborough lying on the ice, speaking in hushed tones, watching a polar bear and seal mother and pup. It is three decades since we saw him in Africa crouching yards away from great apes, but his curiosity and transcendent wonder at the world around him is as contagious and inspiring as ever. Can we have another 60 years, please?

Check out our Slideshow of some of the most dramatic images from the final episode of Frozen Planet below...

Frozen Planet preview, Episode 7
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