Sue Perkins gets ‘lost in Alaska’

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Friday: Sue Perkins: Lost in Alaska (Channel 5, 9pm)

One of the most memorable moments on The Great British Bake Off during Sue Perkins’ tenure as co-host involved a baked Alaska.

It became the stuff of Bake Off legend, and probably haunts the dreams of those present.

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In fact, so fractious did the discourse surrounding ‘Bingate’ – which saw construction engineer Iain Watters throw his ice cream in the rubbish after it melted, apparently a consequence of fellow contestant Diana Beard removing it from the freezer – become, that Perkins took to Twitter to exclaim: “All getting a little inflamed for my liking. Am off. This is a show about CAKES. Please, let’s save the ire for real stuff”.

Sue PerkinsSue Perkins
Sue Perkins

One wonders whether she felt a slight chill when she was told that this new series was about Alaska, before being reassured that it was the US state, not the part-frozen dessert, that was the focus.

America’s largest state by area – bigger than Texas, California and Montana combined – Alaska is also its most westerly, its Aleutian Islands extending beyond even Hawaii.

It is a land of extremes, then, in terms of the US; it is also the most sparsely populated of the 50 states, with a population of just 736,000. That’s less than the population of Leeds in an area twice the size of France.

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To find out more about this vast and largely unspoiled land, Sue jumps in at the deep end to uncover the extreme weather, wildlife, wilderness and ways of life that make it so unique.

Across three episodes she learns about Alaska’s fascinating history and breath-taking nature, and meets the incredible people who call it home, from gold prospectors and native communities to hunters and doomsday preppers.

In this first episode, Sue starts her adventure in Anchorage, a city that is on the very edge of civilisation. Anchorage is Alaska’s biggest city by a large margin, and its climate is not too dissimilar to our own. However the farther north and west one travels, the more remote and wild the terrain becomes.

With this daunting fact in mind, Sue begins her journey with a very necessary trip to a survival school, where she learns how to protect herself in the event of a bear attack. Anyone who saw Sue on Taskmaster will muster little surprise that this particular challenge was met with decidedly mixed results.

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There are also memories of that chaotic programme later in the episode as Sue puts her body on the line in order to feed a rather pushy baby moose. All that’s missing is Alex Horne looking on with a whistle.

As she continues her adventure to discover more about the Alaskan way of life, she’s confronted with some uncomfortable realities, such as the precarious relationship between Alaska’s human and wildlife populations.

She also discovers Alaska’s enduring Russian heritage – mainland Alaska is actually only around 55 miles from Russia, and prior to the Alaska Purchase in 1867 it was a part of the Russian Empire.

With the United States having a historic antipathy with Russia, how does this paradox look in today’s modern America?

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