National Geographic's most distinctive nature docu-series, Savage Kingdom, is back this week with a brand new season, and PopCulture.com got an early look. Narrated by actor Charles Dance, the series puts a narrative spin on the lives of the most powerful predators on the African savanna. This year, those animals are competing harder than ever to secure their prey.
Savage Kingdom underscores the drama between the lions, hyenas, leopards, and other animals ruling over the African savanna. The dramatization is well-deserved, as the clip above shows. Even after a successful hunt, the young leopard can hardly rest for a moment before a rival appears to take her hard-earned meal. Dance's entrancing voice lends a sense of auspice to the action, while the breathtaking photography speaks for itself.
Four seasons in, the stakes are only climbing higher on Savage Kingdom, as its creators and viewers become more and more invested in the community of animals it has been following. The show is filmed in Mombo, Northern Botswana, and traces the hunts, feuds, and alliances of the animal kingdom in a remarkably cohesive presentation.
"For generations, Kings and Queens have ruled the bountiful Eden of Mombo, but a new age of terror is dawning," read National Geographic's synopsis at the end of the last season. "Mmamotse, Commander of the hyena army steals the throne. Her rotten army spreads fear, as the lions plot their revenge. Even the untouchable Pula struggles to safeguard her legacy. As rising waters bring warring factions closer together, everyone prepares for battle. When darkness reigns, only the strongest will survive."
This year, the environment itself turns on the animals as their story picks up in the middle of a historic drought. It is all the easier to get invested in the drama of the lions' lifestyle with the voice of Dance overlaying them. Known to many fans for playing Tywin Lannister on HBO's Game of Thrones, Dance was already strongly associated with lions, legacy, and the fight for territory before the series took off.
Dance's narration pairs perfectly with the unrivaled wildlife photography of the series, courtesy of director Brad Bestelink. The show is NatGeo's most expensive wildlife documentary to date and takes a slow, patient approach to film.
The results speak for themselves. Savage Kingdom Season 4 premiered on Friday, Aug. 14, offering an unabashed look at the fight for dignity and survival on the savanna. The series continues on Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic. Previous episodes are streaming on the network's website, or on Hulu.