From the makers of Planet Earth, BBC Earth’s Emmy-winning The Blue Planet: Seas of Life is an exploration of animal life in and around the oceans, including the ones frozen over. It goes deep into the… well, deep parts of the ocean, and also examines the creatures that thrive on the shores.
For most of us, what lies under the waves remains an elusive mystery. Most of our planet is covered in water, but it’s not easy or cheap to go explore much of that environment. Thankfully, the BBC has done that for us, and brings back the results of their findings in the beautiful, engaging, nearly 400-minute series, available as a three-disc set.
All the familiar creatures are present: polar bears, sharks, dolphins, and various whales. Of particular interest is a stunning sequence between killer whales and seal pups. But as the action moves further below sea level, we are introduced to a number of exotic looking beasts that seem more like fantasies dreamed up in an over-active imagination than something that actually exists. Yet, here is the video-graphic proof of them, and it’s a fascinating look at some of Earth’s most elusive and mysterious fish. With eight episodes, quite a variety of species are covered.
Because of the new ground broken when it first came out, The Blue Planet may be one of my favorite recent releases. While some of the BBC Earth series help us learn more about the familiar, The Blue Planet spends a lot of time introducing the unfamiliar, so it has a very fresh feel to it, and I eagerly anticipated each new surprise. This is a truly expansive look at diverse and interesting forms of life.
Blu-ray brings the series into stunning high definition. So much of the camera work here is cinematic and spectacular, and to get to enjoy the details that Blu-ray brings is breathtaking. Sure, some of the footage is a little uneven in quality, and can be grainy or fuzzy at times, given the various cameras used and conditions that filming occurred under, as applies to any nature documentary. And one must remember that The Blue Planet was not originally filmed in HD, so it won’t look as good as other, newer productions, such as Life. But it’s by far the best that this series has ever looked, and I am grateful for the upgrade.
The audio is at the same level of quality as the picture. Surrounded by speakers, the sounds caught on tape will totally draw you into the world, with a perfectly matched score. There are the occasional static problems, and The Blue Planet doesn’t take full advantage of its 5.1 audio capabilities. At times, music or waves do overwhelm the narration, and that’s a tad disappointing, but the overall impression is pretty good.
Someone has to tell us about what we’re seeing, and there is no one better suited to the task of narrating nature specials than Sir David Attenborough. He returns for The Blue Planet, ready to explain the sharks that live in the shallows and anemones that make their home on the coral reefs. As always, his voice is perfect for the job, and the information he gives remains unobtrusive, informative, and entertaining. He is an invaluable part of this presentation.
The Blue Planet has a wealth of bonus features. We get well over an hour of behind-the-scenes footage (about ten minutes for each of the eight episodes), and more than 20 minutes of interviews with people that were instrumental in delivering this series including Alastair Fothergill, the producer, Penny Allen, a researcher for the project, and Doug Allan, cameraman.
Not only that, but five other nature programs, all water-themed, are included. Fans will get to see more specials in the same genre, including looks at the Amazon and Antarctica, and a commentary on the effects of commercial fishing. It’s several specials in one package.
The Blue Planet: Seas of Life is available on Blu-ray now.