The original news story which said the Discovery Channel would not air the final episode of the Frozen Planet series was inaccurate, according to Treehugger.com (the Discovery Channel is their parent company). So that's something I'm happy to correct! Chris Tackett explains:
We asked a few people at Discovery what the deal was with this Frozen Planet show and they explained that while the BBC is already airing its version of Frozen Planet, the Discovery Channel version is still being edited, since it is not scheduled to air in the US until sometime in the first quarter of 2012. In fact, there's not even a set air date yet, which should tell you something about how much work is yet to be done on the series. As it turns out, creating different versions of these shows for audiences in different countries is commonplace. The deals behind these co-productions are complicated, but, simply put, the BBC and Discovery Channel share footage - as well as the stories and messages that go with that footage - but always edit their own versions, including using different narrators.
Frozen Planet is being produced the same way. Much has been made of Discovery not using the wonderfully British David Attenborough for the narration, but that happens almost every time Discovery announces one of these programs - different narrators are used in several different versions of the programs shown across the world. Regarding the narrator for all episodes of the US version of Frozen Planet, Discovery has not announced anyone as of yet -- another indicator that this is not a repudiation of Attenborough, but rather a production decision for the series.
As for the differences in specific episodes, there simply aren't (and never were) pre-determined episodes that both the BBC and Discovery were airing, so it's just not true that Discovery is only airing six and leaving out a whole seventh episode. In fact, when I was digging around for links about this program, I happened across a press release from 2008, when the project was first announced, which said the series would be eight parts. I asked about that and why it was now six instead of eight and was told it just has to do with the amount of footage they got. I guess when your actors are wild animals in extreme environments, you really just have to go with what you get. So it's not going to be eight episodes as originally planned.
Regarding the much-discussed seventh episode airing on the BBC, Discovery Channel says that there are a lot of programing decisions still to be made, but divulged that even if the footage is cut to be six episodes, as planned in the US, the essence of the BBC's seven episodes will be represented throughout the US version of the series. In other words, the reality of climate change will be present throughout the entire series.
So, that's what we know. We'll update you when we have more info in a few weeks. We'll be curious to watch the final result when it airs here in the US, because controversy or not, these BBC/Discovery programs are always awe-inspiring and help make people understand and appreciate the interconnectedness and beauty of nature and are some of the best TV out there. And no, I'm not being told to say that. It's just truth. Seriously.