The programmes were made over four years by producer Alastair Fothergill and his team, who were responsible for the successful The Blue Planet (2001). The narrator, David Attenborough, worked on them while also embarking on the last in his 'Life' series, Life in Cold Blood, which is due for completion in 2008. The series' music is composed by George Fenton. Filming involved visiting 62 countries and 204 different locations.
Each of the eleven episodes (except the first) focuses on one of the Earth's natural habitats and examines its indigenous features, together with the breadth of fauna found there. Several animals and locations are shown that have hitherto never been filmed, using innovative camera technology. Previously unseen animal behaviour includes: wolves chasing caribou observed from above; snow leopards pursuing markhor in the Himalayas; grizzly bear cubs leaving their den for the first time; crab-eating macaques that swim underwater; and over a hundred sailfish hunting en masse.
By contrast with the others, the first instalment gives a general overview of the series by describing each of the environments that are looked at in more detail in later programmes. However, the method used to communicate this — a 'journey' from one end of the Earth to the other — serves to demonstrate the rich variation that exists on the planet as a whole.
Some sequences, particularly in episodes 6–11, are notable for their potentially disturbing content. Examples include a lone elephant being brought down by lions and a polar bear unsuccessfully attacking a walrus colony and subsequently being overcome by hunger and exhaustion. Fothergill confirmed that he asked BBC presentation for an appropriate warning before transmission in such cases: