The great British TV polymath Stephen Fry (of fame
spanning Black Adder to QI) lumbers through exotic
wilderness in search of endangered species. There are six animals, each
getting its own one-hour episode. Accompanying him is zoologist Mark
Carwardine, who did a BBC radio show and book, also called Last
Chance to See, back in 1989 with famous writer Douglas Adams.
Fry and Carwardine essentially retrace the steps of two
decades earlier to check up on the animals which were at risk then and
to see if conservation efforts have paid off. The animals, and episode
titles, are: Amazonian Manatee, Northern White Rhino, Aye-Aye, Komodo
Dragon, Kakapo and also the Blue Whale.
Many people would say it's hard for Fry not to be
charming and infuse any place or situation with charisma. This much is
true in this series as well. From the get go, where he is injured most
unf0rtunately on the Amazon river, we can't help but look on at his
towering awkwardness, especially on boats, as he goes into the wilds of
the world's continents and his iPhones (around five) are rendered
useless. He does not get along completely fabulously with Carwardine,
however. Rather than chumminess, the two men have a proper working
relationship and thorough interest in the natural world before them.
Each episode is interesting because of the build up on
the way to the see the endangered animal. For example, in “Kakapo”,
which is a flightless parrot in New Zealand, we first go in chase of a
kiwi, which is also at risk. We also see the two go through quarantine,
which is kind of officious and comical. The episodes offer an insight
into the people of the country or community where the animals are. There
was a wonderful gaze at the Amazon and the people living there. You
start to grasp how huge the place is and how important water for life
The shows can be a bit slow-paced, which may cause some
people to give in to viewer-fatigue. Sometimes, you can't help but be
distracted whilst watching because the full hour is used up. It can't
always be gripping TV, I suppose. Sometimes waiting for the kakapo to
come out of its hole just can't be sped up.
The use of high-definition cameras gives everything a
lavish, stunning gloss. The jungles and mountains seem all that more
close because they look so majestic. There is also a lot of hand-held
work, for audio too. This gives Last Chance to See a great
documentary feel, which is fitting.
There are 21 minutes of unseen footage in the bonus
material. I would have loved a kind of info-file on the animals or
something similar! I enjoyed this show and it is extremely educative
even with the hints of fat that could have been trimmed remaining.