Our Zoo review: A perfect show for all the family

Oakfield Manor

A look back at BBC One's Our Zoo, which told the story of Chester Zoo's early days.

Wednesday evening saw the conclusion of BBC One’s six-part series Our Zoo and I for one was sad to see it end so soon.

I began the series with trepidation – and this from someone who currently lives not far from Chester Zoo, a place I have visited on more than one occasion. I could not put my finger on exactly what failed to hook me prior to its broadcast; only that it did not look ‘my cup of tea’.

How wrong I was.

By the end of the series I had become fully immersed in the Mottershead family’s lives, as they strived to get their idea for a zoo in Upton off the ground in the face of fierce opposition from the majority of the village’s residents.

Like any programme based on a true story, the magic was not in discovering if George Mottershead – played by the impressive Lee Ingleby – finally fulfilled his dream but how he did it. And so we were taken on a six-part journey through one man’s passion project that at times threatened to tear his family apart, with a supporting cast – both human and animal – that was exemplary.

The final episode centred around a planning appeal that saw truths revealed, lessons learned on all sides and George finally quell the temper that had threatened to rob him of his dream. But the wonder of the show is that it somehow kept you guessing, even though history told us there was a happy ending long before we heard a cheer behind the closed door of Oakfield Manor.

Our Zoo would have been a perfect Sunday afternoon experience, for children and parents alike to enjoy the many wonderful messages writer Matt Charman conveyed in his script. So one can only hope that it is repeated at an earlier time in the near future, for young viewers to enjoy the animals on show and the life lessons that were subtly revealed.

Special praise must go to Honor Kneafsey, who played the younger Mottershead daughter June, and Anne Reid, who played George’s mother Lucy. Both stole the show on more than one occasion, as did the plethora of animals that appeared in the series.

In short, Our Zoo was a great period drama that should be enjoyed by all the family. It will also ensure I am back at Chester Zoo in the coming months, to see everything with fresh eyes; and you can be sure I will not be the only one.