For the unlucky few that missed episode one, David is its protagonist; grizzled, silvery face etched with a million lines, a dramatic sense of awareness contained in his deep-set eyes. His countenance is both fearsome and impressive: this is a real-life King Kong. But in contrast to Attenborough’s previous series which showcase the natural world in all its glory, Dynasties takes viewers on an emotionally turbulent journey - zooming in on the life of one critically endangered species in each episode. The harsh reality of existence for these creatures is documented in its entirety – red, in tooth and claw.
Following episode one ‘Chimpanzee’, the double whammy of Davids appearing on Twitter was the first time an animal, documented in its natural habitat, had been held up as ‘hero’ by the British public. Unbeknownst to chimpanzee David, the King of the Apes became a star overnight. Viewers were reported to have cried at the chimp’s fate – and this is the Attenborough effect. His docu-series – Dynasties, Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Africa – cultivate a deep-seated investment in the animal world, its territories and their casts of characters. The conventional hierarchy of man over nature is toppled, if only for one hour a week. The playing field is reconstructed, at the mercy of emotions that these (bizarrely human) creatures on screen manage to squeeze out of us.