Spy In The Wild is a nature show with a premise that, at long last, perfectly balances education with entertainment. The BBC commissions experts to create animatronic animals, places them in real creatures’ habitats, then watches to see what happens when various species go about their business, unaware that they’re being monitored by sneaky humans. Each episode not only teaches viewers about animal behavior, but rewards them too with the simple pleasures of laughing at weird-ass robot creatures with cameras for eyes.
The best of these creations to date is “Spy Gorilla.” To understand why, please watch this clip from the show’s second season that sees a troop of gorillas figure out whether to welcome the glassy-eyed interloper into their home or, perhaps, tear its tiny little arms off and beat it into a smoking pile of fake fur and sparking gyros.
In the video, the gorillas make way for their leader—the huge alpha Silverback—to make a judgment call for all of them. “Spy Gorilla won’t be welcomed without his say-so,” the narrator explains. We watch through the tiny robot gorilla’s eyes as the Silverback approaches. The camera cuts to show Spy Gorilla blinking slowly, surrounded by animals ready to accept or violently reject it, and wondering if somewhere deep within its programming, it’s capable of feeling a sense of existential terror. The robot looks away to “show respect.”
Then the Silverback signals to everyone that Spy Gorilla’s cool and the tension evaporates. The alpha reclines on his side like a shaggy patrician and one of the baby gorillas comes over to the spy, smacking his chest to signal he wants to play. The robot repeats the motion with stiff arms and is then knocked over by his would-be companion, lying motionless in the grass as the baby legs it away from his crime.
This is a big day for Spy Gorilla. After having been created by top-notch engineers, it infiltrated deep into potentially deadly territory and lived to tell the tale. Hopefully, in acknowledgement of its incredible service, the BBC has draped Spy Gorilla’s hairy chest with medals and treated it to a party where it can go from guest to guest, regaling them with the story of its heroism.
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