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First Steps 

The tree penguin species have laid eggs and seen most hatch, for the less fortunate it's a huge waste of energy. But the parents face continuous major threats to themselves and their young, from the elements, obstacles and predators.


John Downer


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Episode credited cast:
David Tennant ... Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Peter Drost Peter Drost ... Narrator: The Netherlands (voice)


The tree penguin species have laid eggs and seen most hatch, for the less fortunate it's a huge waste of energy. But the parents face continuous major threats to themselves and their young, from the elements, obstacles and predators.

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penguin | See All (1) »





Release Date:

2013 (UK) See more »

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Featured in Terra Mater: Pinguine hautnah! - Erste Schritte (2014) See more »

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26 October 2018 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Really like to love all of the 22 BBC 'Wildlife Specials', 18 of which narrated by David Attenborough and the others by David Tennant. Have a preference for Attenborough's contributions, being a big fan of his, but the Wildlife Specials narrated by Tennant have all the qualities that made Attenborough's so great.

As far as the BBC Wildlife Specials go, 'Penguins: Spy in the Huddle' is one of my favourites. It is though my personal favourite of the 'Wildlife Specials: The Spy Collection' series, and for me the best of the Tennant-narrated entries (my least favourite being 'Swarm: Nature's Incredible Invasions' but that is still very good, just that the others focus on animals that appeal to me more).

Did criticise a few of the Wildlife Specials for being too short and not having enough episodes with so much to cover. Didn't feel that way with 'Penguins: Spy in the Huddle'. Maybe there is a bias due for my adoration of penguins, stemming way back to watching 'Pingu' over and over as a child.

'Penguins: Spy in the Huddle's' second episode "First Steps" has a huge amount to love. It looks wonderful, beautiful scenery that are like characters of their own and for the quite unique techniques used (done wrong it could have looked really amateurish) the camera work was fluid and natural, not quite cinematic but intimate and clever making us feel like an invisible presence amongst the penguins. There are some unique techniques like with the Chickcam and the eggcam, they being the most striking visually.

Music score fits very well, not too grandiose or too inappropriately quirky. It is better than a couple of the Attenborough documentaries (though elsewhere all of those are superior) at not being too intrusive and not featuring too much.

From start to finish, "First Steps" is interesting and does very well at entertaining and teaching, not everything is new but there is a good balance of the familiar and not so familiar and the information is to the point and not too speculative or overly-subjective. It is not everyday where one sees Canacara birds.

It also excels at not falling into the trap of telling too much of a story approach, this worked with Attenborough because there was still lots that educated and were backed up, but haven't seen it done as successfully elsewhere. The different types of penguins are diverse and are at points strikingly human, their curiosity, intelligence, adapting and struggles being relatable and great to watch. They are more than just cute, they also have vulnerability and resourcefulness and it shows on screen in all their stages, whether in the playful, intimate or more suspenseful scenes. The chicks are adorable, especially the Emperor ones with their behaviours as they take their first steps enhanced by the Chickcam. There are some amazing sights and scenes such as the blizzard, the Canacara birds, the rock pool and the fight between the chicks and the gulls.

Emperor, Rockhopper and Humboldt penguins again, dealing with the hatching and first steps of the chicks, are explored here in "First Steps" and a great job is done making them interesting, worth rooting for and having a mix of known knowledge and not so familiar facts. Found myself rooting most for the Emperor penguins due to them having to overcome the most adversity, an example being the heart-rending outcome of the blizzard. The vultures and seals are suitably antagonistic.

David Tennant's narration is simply splendid. He delivers with enthusiasm and sincerity, making one want to know more while never talking down to the viewer. "First Steps" never felt too episodic and there is a real sense of a story being told with all three penguin species explored with a real honesty and animals worth relating to without going overboard, not getting too humanised or overly-subjective.

Altogether, another wonderful episode. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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