TV

Dive into Blue Planet II – a new wave of natural history television

As Blue Planet II splashes on to BBC1, presented once again by Sir David Attenborough, we go deep into a show that will change the way we see life on earth and underwater

The Blue Planet II – Bottlenose Dolphins

First the epic sweep of Hans Zimmer’s soaring strings come crashing in, soundtracking wondrous shots from the upcoming series. Then there’s Sir David Attenborough’s rousing introductory speech lifting expectations – this is going to be out of this world. Now, it’s time to wave hello to Blue Planet II.

And what a wave. After five years in the making, and 16 years on from the original Blue Planet series, we are ready to dive in again. And the opening shot is stunning.

We are under the sea, but looking up at the sun. The sound compresses. We are in the wave. Maybe we are the wave? In the foreground, the wall of water is rising. Beyond the swelling tide, an island is visible on the horizon.

“The big things that have to be done can only be done by governments” Sir David Attenborough

The surface of the sea begins to stretch and curve. The peak of this powerful swell becomes translucent. Pale clouds appear to show through the thin gauze of water. The lip of the wave throws out a misty spray. The surface of the water below, like ripples on glass, as this helter skelter gains momentum. We’ve all seen waves. But never like this.

The colour range broadens. A deep indigo in the muscular heart of the wave. The reflecting light produces a metallic green sheen on its wall. A blue-black oily darkness suggests danger in the trough below. All water colours. All angles. Smooth, silky, stunning, seductive and possessing such destructive power.

The wave grows. Its edges twist towards the camera, faces appearing in the turquoise patterns below the lip as more light penetrates. A second swell beyond feeds back into the cascading water as it reaches its full height.

The light threatens to tear through the surface as it arcs over, seemingly defying the gravity that propels it. The spray above has developed a fuzzy, warm texture, like a newly fledged bird. The ripples on the surface narrow, are we going to crash?

The crest of the wave is now parallel to the sea. The cameras have caught this tube – but it’s not long for this world. The edges fray. Gravity defied. For now. The crash is coming. We’re in deep.

Still this impossible water sculpture maintains its form. Power, grace, movement and momentum. Forward. Further. The turquoise peak looking like ice. Ready? It’s coming.

As the wave prepares its entry dive, reaching forward one last time, readying for its final splash, Sir David Attenborough’s voice rises above the tumult of the tide.

Blue Planet II
Sir David Attenborough

“The surface of the ocean conceals the many creatures that live beneath,” he says.

Bam. A change of camera angle. We are under the water now. After 20 seconds of sheer magic, with all the suspense and mystery of a hundred television dramas, this beautiful opening shot of Blue Planet II is over. We now see the wave from below, as a cloud of bubbles expands down and out into the ocean.

And, the idea splashes into our minds. This spectacle of beauty will now repeat. Endlessly. Out of our sight. But this is just Blue Planet’s cheery wave hello. This is not our headline act.

The creatures that live beneath. They are why we are here, as Attenborough reminds us. But the detail, the beauty, the wonder captured in this extreme close-up of a wave, highlights the blueprint for Blue Planet II.

The care and attention, the patience and the technology, the ingenuity and the technique, the depth and breadth of the knowledge is brought to bear on every shot, in every ocean, for every episode.

The Giant Trevally leaping out of the water to feed on birds in flight, reversing the way we think things are done? Never before filmed or photographed, but here to shock and awe. Tuskfish using tools to crack open clams – 100 hours in the water to film, but a winning story of tenacity and evolution that will linger longer in our imaginations.

The Blue Planet II
A reef in Fiji from episode three of The Blue Planet II

Grouper Fish communicating via sign language with different species of hunters, Clownfish building nests, an Octopus constructing a suit of armour? All sea-based life is here. But it is ours not just to wonder at, but to preserve.

An increasingly strong line on climate change and regular reminders that human pollution of the planet’s oceans with plastics ensure we are no longer allowed to simply wallow in the beauty of our ocean life.

Now, whether by changing our habits or lobbying our politicians, we must act to preserve it.

  • Blue Planet II starts on BBC1, Sunday 29 October, 8pm

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