Our Zoo BBC Mini-Series Review – An Amazing True Story of the Chester Zoo
Our Zoo is a six-part mini-series for television aired by BBC One. The series began on September 3, 2014 and concluded on October 8, 2014. This was one of those television surprises that once discovered, demands your attention until it has been watched in one sitting. I powered through the entire series in one day. I cannot even begin to give the credit to this series that it deserves. BBC One is usually a source of creativity with its shows, but this time, they have found a real winner that will sit in my heart and mind for years to come.
Our Zoo, written by British playwright and screenwriter Matt Charman and directed by Andy De Emmony, is based on a true story about George Mottershead and his family as they fight insurmountable odds and public opposition to create the Chester Zoo in England in the 1930s. George is no stranger to overcoming battles. Having fought in World War I, he suffered a bullet to his neck which injured his spine, confining him to a wheelchair for three years. Despite the bleak prognosis that he would ever walk again, George’s strength led him to triumph over his disability.
In the series, despite George Motterhead’s (Lee Ingleby) physical restoration to health, he still bears the scars of his injuries both mentally and physically. There is a scene where George is with his wife Lizzie Motterhead (Liz White), and we are privy to this very intimate moment where we see the long scar down his spine, the screws running on each side, and a large gaping scarred over reddish wound. Then there are the scenes where he struggles with his inner demons, from his own injuries, to his brother’s death in the war, to a reunion of other injured vets, to gunshots fired at a circus, to the crutches and other paraphernalia he discovers from the war hospital that he has bought to turn into a zoo.
And his very deep emotions to his past sufferings, and the sufferings of others, is precisely why he is so in-tune to the sufferings of the animals he encounters: from the monkey that will be destroyed because no one has claimed him, the aging camel that has been abused by a traveling circus, the bear couple that he finds in a cave in dire need of help, etc. He has seen so much suffering in the world and now he feels that in order to heal himself, and his family, he must heal the animals by becoming their savior.
However, his family is reluctant to follow his vision, the local pastor is doing everything in his power to battle him at every step for his own personal vendetta due to George buying the land his deceased wife’s family used to own, and the fear of townsfolk mingled with the usual bureaucratic red tape that goes into establishing any business venture. But George is not a man to walk away from a good fight and he goes through defeat after defeat until he is finally triumphant and his vision is a reality that we can all enjoy today as one of the most spectacular zoos in the world.
This series is a great wholesome family entertainment on many levels. First, for anyone going through struggles with trying to achieve their dreams as a reminder of the works that is involved, the obstacles to overcome, and the fact that one always needs a network of family, friends, and supporters to get through the rough times. My favorite quote was about money, and how if you have a dream, the money is like a flock of birds that will follow you.
Also, marketing is important to creating your business and this series shows the entrepreneur how to turn negative public opinion around in one’s favor. A perfect example is when the town had a public meeting to stop the zoo. George speaking at the meeting did little good; in fact, in seemed to do the opposite and incite the crowd riot mentality. However, when he and his showman brother Billy Atkinson (Raif Little) park their delivery truck in the middle of the town and rile up the crowd that there are dangerous animals possibly inside, they have everyone’s eyes and ears. I was on the edge of my seat when those doors flew open to reveal a colony of adorable penguins. I was both in tears and laughing to watch those penguins being led down the street, one fish at a time, to their new home with many of the town’s adults and children in tow.
For anyone who loves zoos and animals like I do, this is the perfect story. All the actors and actresses provided spectacular performances, the pacing of the story was perfect with lots of twists and turns, heartfelt moments, and scenes where you were laughing and cheering. And of course the animals were adorable. The best part of all is that not only did the Chester Zoo succeed in opening its doors as one of the most state-of-the-art visions of zoological barriers without cages, but it is perhaps the best zoo and botanical gardens in the world today, even garnering more praise than the world famous San Diego Zoo. To everyone involved in this televised drama and the real heroes of the past who made this zoo and story of courage and imagination possible, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
– Des Manttari, Editor-in-Chief, Phoenix Genesis
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