For twenty-five years, the NATURE series has awed us, enlightened us and delighted us in our own living rooms. Joining in this pioneering television enterprise, filmmakers of unique vision and astounding talent showed the viewers of PBS images that often seemed to come from another world. Great stormclouds of Quelea roll and swell across the Serengeti, obscuring the sky and obliterating crops. Goslings hatched upon towering, austere cliffs follow their parents over sheer drops and plummet to jagged boulders far below, many actually surviving to continue their death-defying migration to the river at the foot of the cliff. In the Himalayas, snow leopards stalk blue sheep, coming at their prey from above with deadly stealth, careful not to dislodge even a single warning pebble. In the Arctic, a mother polar bear nurses her tiny, vulnerable cub in her den, a picture of terrifying strength and infinite tenderness. In a jungle in Madagascar a fabulous moth, whose existence Darwin hypothesized 150 years ago, finally reveals itself to an infrared camera, unfurling its twelve-inch tongue to insert it into an orchid whose nectar lies twelve inches deep in the flower. Again and again you find yourself wondering, how in the world did they film that? And is this really the same world that I inhabit?
But there are episodes that remind us that we do in fact share the same world with all of these creatures, even if our relationship with nature often puts us at odds with it. In one film a former circus elephant, after decades of living in a zoo, without the company of other elephants, is transported to an elephant sanctuary. There she encounters a former circus friend from twenty years earlier. They caress one another with their trunks, trumpeting frantically until the barrier between their cages is removed so that they can be together. No, elephants never do forget. The same goes for chimpanzees, it seems. At a sanctuary established for chimps retiring from research, a woman who first coaxed many of these animals out of their cages and into their new, natural environment returns for an emotional reunion many years later. The chimps remember her instantly, embracing her with their long arms and holding her hands. Not only do we share the same world with these amazing animals, but we may even share emotions. This is the complex world we live in. And all of this is Nature.
"The Best of NATURE - 25 Years," re-airs Sunday, December 2nd at 8 p.m. EST on PBS (check local listings).
View the Production Credits.