Planet Earth II Ultra HD Blu-ray review

Natural history and 4K make great bedfellows if this BBC release is anything to go by

Just when you thought the world's natural wonders had already been thoroughly plundered by heaps of previous nature documentaries, Planet Earth II comes along with a new box of technological tricks to make your jaw hang open all over again.

All six episodes of the BBC's groundbreaking series are fascinating, and hold up well to repeated viewing. What guarantees you'll want to do that, though, is the unadulterated glory of the picture quality on this UHD BD release...

Picture: The high dynamic range and wide colour gamut hits you first. The image on the BBC's 4K platter looks much brighter and, crucially, more like the real world than the standard HD version. You really feel like you're on an Indonesian island with Komodo Dragons, or on a mountain with feuding eagles. Which you most likely aren't.

Almost the whole picture frequently radiates HDR brilliance, rather than just small isolated highlights as often happens in movies. The HDR/wide colour gamut mix also gives you an appreciation of the vibrant saturations of some of the dazzling birds and animals the natural world abounds with. And you can see more subtlety and variance in the feathers/fur of less colourful creatures.

The image typically enjoys a strong amount of extra detail beyond the normal Blu-ray. One or two sequences – such as the scene where the bears emerge from hibernation – do look suddenly soft, as if upscaled from HD, or cropped too aggressively from within an originally much wider 4K shot. Such moments are rare, though.

More of a disappointment is that the UHD BD deploys a 24p frame rate rather than the 50Hz rate used on the HD disc, apparently to save the BBC from having to master different versions for international markets. This results in noticeable judder during tracking and panning shots.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: Stellar visuals are partnered with a DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack that envelops you in Hans Zimmer's score nicely, but isn't particularly interested in deploying ambient effects.
Audio rating: 3.5/5

Extras: The only extra features are found on the 1080p Blu-ray, and comprise the Making of... segments shown after each broadcast episode. These are all good, but we'd have liked something more in-depth.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: Despite sticking with a 24p frame rate, Planet Earth II remains a reference-grade UHD disc.

Planet Earth II, BBC Worldwide, Ultra HD Blu-ray & Region B BD, £30 Approx
HCC Verdict: 4/5