Sunday, 8 July 2018

Blue Planet II ★★★★★

In 2001, a TV show came along unlike any other. The Blue Planet, which ran for 10 episodes towards the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s favourite year, was a critically-acclaimed and phenomenally shot nature programme five years in the making. In the years that followed we had many other shows just like it – most importantly, of course, the stunning Planet Earth – and in the last few years, we had some very eagerly anticipated second seasons of both. Planet Earth II was an absolute masterpiece of television and is understandably #1 on IMDb’s Top-Rated TV Shows of All Time. But the show that made more of an impact on me was Blue Planet II.

With filming taking place over a course of more than four years; involving 125 expeditions across 39 countries and producing more than 6,000 hours of underwater dive footage from over an estimated 4,000 dives, Blue Planet II is absolutely a labour of love – and you can feel the passion in every single shot. This is television as an artform, but also as an educational tool. A very rare and difficult combination to pull off, but here’s a show that has admirably succeeded.

If you’ve ever watched an episode of The Blue Planet or Planet Earth, you should have a pretty good idea of the content here. David Attenborough’s comforting voice tells us stories both funny and sad about the daily lives of various creatures, while mind-blowing visuals and beautiful music compliment the tales. Blue Planet II is no change to this winning formula, obediently respecting the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. But Blue Planet II’s impact is enormous and worth discussing.

The programme has been credited with raising awareness of plastic pollution both domestically and internationally, an influence dubbed the 'Blue Planet effect'. Thanks in part to a very upsetting story involving a whale during the series, the programme – along with documentary films like A Plastic Ocean (also a must-see) – has certainly opened a lot of people’s eyes. I’m not going to get preachy or political because this isn’t the place, but we are destroying our oceans (and our planet) through general incompetence when it comes to material use and waste. And thankfully, this series has really made a big impression on people who now want to help. After only one episode aired in the UK, there was a huge surge in search engine enquiries about conservation charities, with the Marine Conservation Society, WWF and Plastic Oceans Foundation all receiving a significant uptick in traffic. Not only that, but many universities have found themselves with an increasing number of marine biology students ever since the show’s airing – again, thanks to the ‘Blue Planet effect’. For a programme to make a difference like that is just wonderful.

Television needs more programmes like this. There’s a lot we don’t know about our planet and there’s a lot we’re doing to it that we don’t quite realise the implications of. Programmes like this should be compulsory viewing for all ages. Not only is it a gorgeously crafted piece of entertainment, it is one of the most engrossing, educational and inspiring things ever to be shown on television. Blue Planet II is, quite simply, essential viewing. There’s no excuse to not watch it.

Sam Love

Blue Planet II at CeX

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