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Growing Up 

The tree penguin species' hatchlings grow fast into lively, mobile chicks, which are soon forced to learn while they grow, cared for ever less by the parents, who need to go fishing. They ... See full summary »


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' hatchlings grow fast into lively, mobile chicks, which are soon forced to learn while they grow, cared for ever less by the parents, who need to go fishing. They still face continuous major threats, mainly from parasites and predators. The chicks must soon contend with various obstacles to reach the sea and start fishing their own food. Written by KGF Vissers

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penguin | See All (1) »





Release Date:

2013 (UK) See more »

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

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User Reviews

Growth of the penguins
29 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' third and final (regrettably) episode "Growing Up" has a huge amount to love. It looks wonderful, beautiful scenery that are like characters of their own (i.e. the glaciers) 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 still, though they were more so and more cleverly used in the previous two episodes.

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, "Growing Up" 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. The giant petrels was a good example of the not so familiar, while showing the usual predators (.e. sea lions) is an example of the familiar.

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, with some lovely scenes involving skating, practising jumping skills and even punk hairdos.

Emperor, Rockhopper and Humboldt penguins again, dealing with the growing up and increasing independence of the chicks, are explored here in "Growing Up" and a great job is done making them interesting, worth rooting for and having a mix of known knowledge and not so familiar facts, like with the chicks treated like human babies would when parents want some down-time and even some identity checking. The vampire bats and sea lions are suitably antagonistic, and even more the giant petrels (a new animal for me). It is not just the chicks having to overcome adversity, like with the targeting of the Humboldts by vampire bats, it's the parents too.

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. "Growing Up" 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.

"Growing Up" simply put was a perfect way to end a must see (if not quite definitive perhaps) documentary on penguins. Fans of penguins like me will be in heaven. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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