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TV review: Planet Earth III, Britain’s Housing Crisis: What went wrong?, and Little Trains and Big Names with Pete Waterman

27 October 2023


A sea angel seen at Quadra Island, off the Campbell River, in British Columbia

A sea angel seen at Quadra Island, off the Campbell River, in British Columbia

THE sea angel — the first I’d ever seen — was a being of rare, almost transcendent beauty, luminous, fluttering in a nimbus of its own creation. Along came a sea butterfly, more like a comical underwater snail bumbling about, but far too close because — whoosh! The sea angel shot out deadly tentacles, imprisoned it, and consumed it alive, discarding the inedible shell: more — as my grandson said — diabolic than angelic.

No wonder I dislike nature so much: just when you’re beginning to identify with this or that marvel of creation, it reveals its true character, either as pitiless killer, or as lunch. Marvellous Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth III (BBC1, Sundays) focuses on how creatures are responding to global warming’s catastrophic revolution in the environment and hastening depletions.

The fantastic photography and astonishing scenarios revealed are compelling. Off South Africa, unprecedented numbers of great white sharks now hunt the thriving seal colony — but the seals are learning to fight back, mobbing the sea’s deadliest killers and forcing them back into the deep ocean.

Turning to the secular realm: the first of a two-part investigation, Britain’s Housing Crisis: What went wrong? (BBC2, Tuesday of last week), dealt with a catastrophic habitat failure affecting our own species. For decades, each incoming Prime Minister has promised to build the hundreds of thousands of new houses — especially those categorised as “affordable” — needed for our population; and each Chancellor tries this or that financial manipulation to achieve the result. Yet the problem only worsens: more and more people on apparently quite reasonable salaries have given up hope of ever owning their own home, and, for many, even the cost of renting spirals beyond reach.

Voters refuse to allow any development that would despoil their view, thereby undermining radical solutions. Builders award vast dividends to their investors by building hugely expensive luxury dwellings, shying away from the great numbers of cheaper houses so desperately needed. Homo sapiens doesn’t need a climate revolution to wreck his habitat: our greed and selfishness do it perfectly well.

Is any profession more delighted by trains and model railways than the clergy? According to the new series Little Trains and Big Names with Pete Waterman (More 4, Thursday of last week), hugely successful pop artists and celebrities come a close second. Jools Holland showed off his vast, continent-spanning layout, and Sir Rod Stewart and Eddie Izzard will contribute to future episodes. Mr Waterman himself feverishly constructs the 64-foot model railway that will revitalise Chester Cathedral’s liturgical year.

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