Apple TV+ Review: ‘The Elephant Queen’ – Beautifully Presented, Poignant

Apple TV+ The Elephant Queen.
Apple TV+ The Elephant Queen.
Apple TV+ The Elephant Queen. Image credit: Apple

The Elephant Queen is a slightly different kind of nature documentary. Apple’s description provides a hint. “Embark on an epic journey … join Athena, the majestic [elephant] matriarch, as she leads her herd across an unforgiving African landscape…”

We start with an introduction to 50-year old “Athena” in Kenya. She guides her extended family through the perils of drought, in search of water, after her kingdom’s water holes all dry up. It’s time to leave on a four day journey to The Refuge where she knows there will be water. She knows this from years of experience, taught to her by her own mother.

But precious baby Mimi may not be strong enough to travel. So it’s a critical decision when to leave, balancing the strength of Mimi against the needs of the herd. Athena is a gentle, loving leader.

Of course, humans give these animals names, but that doesn’t diminish the powerful insights delivered for these majestic, intelligent animals. Perhaps more than most other documentaries, we start to relate to these beings in their family setting in a focused way for 96 minutes.

And that brings up an important part of the story. Most Nature documentaries start right off the top with the portent of threat: climate change or predators. We are accustomed to being agitated. But The Elephant Queen starts off peacefully, introducing us to the glorious balance of Nature and how these animals live—along with their tiny neighbors.

It’s only at the end, after we’ve experienced the death of Mimi and the birth of Princess, that we come to better appreciate the threats to their very existence. It’s a powerful story telling approach.

Delivered in 4K, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, the photography takes your breath away. Equally impressive is the sound track. The visual and audio impact combine to create a sense of being there, being a witness to it all. Immersed. After an hour and a half, you will have (briefly) lived the life of Athena and her family. That is powerful story telling at its best.


I highly recommend The Elephant Queen. If you care about our (still) lovely planet and its other intelligent species who co-habit with us, this show will indeed take you on a journey that’s poignant, moving, and indeed epic.

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