If you want to know how not to make a natural history

Siberian tiger
Siberian tiger


Watch the BBC’s Operation Snow Tiger, it’s all there, everything you shouldn’t do to make a watchable TV programme about animals in the wild.

Now I have to admit, though I was interested in seeing Siberian tigers in the wild, I approached this documentary two parter with trepidation. I just had an idea it would conform to the modern standards of this type of show.

As soon as I heard the phrase Hi, I’m fill in name here, my worst fears were confirmed.

This time around the fill in name here was Liz Bonnin and as soon as she said those fateful words it was obvious this was going to be a programme about her more than the tigers. So we had shots of her dragging herself up of a morning, dragging herself in and out of various vehicles, whinging about the cold – Siberia, who would have guessed?

But worst of all shots of her looking at the tigers.

The cardinal sin of modern documentaries. Watching the presenter watching the subject.

Shots of her looking at a laptop screen. Shots of her looking in a box with a tiger in it. All while she went into gushing overload. Oh my God! or Oh my gosh!. It was like the beginning of a Law & Order episode. Oh her heart is pounding. Yes this was all about her, sod the actual tigers.

All that gushing came in between her blaming the evil capitalism for the reduction in tiger numbers. Things were so much better under the loveable, cuddly communists, what with people being otherwise occupied in the gulags. Surprised she just didn’t come straight out and blame either the Tories or the bankers, what with this being the BBC.

Ironically she wasn’t on screen when worst incident happened. No it was her sidekick, who we were repeatedly told was a wildlife cameraman. Though bizarrely we never saw him with a camera. No, just him being shot by another cameraman, when he was lagging behind the rangers on the search for a orphaned cubs – did he hinder them?

When they found one cub the cry went out. Look a tiger. Did we look to see the tiger? Did we buggery. We were shown the “wildlife cameraman” shouting Look a tiger.

The main problem on the evidence of the first episode is that they didn’t have enough for an hour programme never mind a two hour two parter. So that results in all the look at me padding. Can understand them not having the footage, not exactly tripping over Siberian tigers, even in Siberia but why drag it out and completely spoil what should have been an interesting watch, making it an infuriating watch.

Show the Russian scientists. Show the rangers. Have a voice over. Have the subject of the film be the subject of the film. Make a watchable documentary.

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