Blue Planet II

‘Hidden beneath the waves, there are creatures beyond our imagination,’ said Sir David Attenborough at the top of the BBC’s latest natural history blockbuster. And he wasn’t lying (Sir David never lies): who, for example, could ever imagine anything as bizarre as a sea cucumber? Or as exotically alien as a sea dragon? Oceans cover 71% of the planet, and yet we know more about the dark side of the Moon than we do about what lies beneath, in the Earth’s own final frontier.

From a magical underwater lightshow of luminescent plankton to up-close footage of bottlenose dolphins leaping in the surf – captured by a cameraman riding the waves alongside them while piloting a jet-ski, one-handed) – Blue Planet II is a miracle of cinematography: the sort of thing you could happily stand and watch for hours on the 4k demonstration TVs in John Lewis.

But it’s not just the world’s most impressive screensaver. It’s also a scientific voyage of discovery, and a stark warning, from perhaps our most persuasive environmental advocate, that ‘the health of our oceans are under threat’ from climate change.

Naturally, it’s an orgy of sex and death, too, with giant trevally plucking fledgling terns out of the sky like hulking great surface-to-air missiles, and orcas feasting on billions of herring at the world’s biggest all-you-can-eat buffet.

There were some happy endings, though – like the pod of dolphins being chased by killer whales who suddenly turned around and started pow-wowing with their pursuers, and apparently succeeded in persuading them they were old friends. Who knew real life was this much like Finding Nemo?

Romantic subplots, meanwhile, included the courting rituals of a giant, bulbous-headed wrasse, who we were told females find ‘particularly handsome’, despite him being a dead ringer for The Elephant Man.

With a stirring score by Hollywood’s go-to composer, Hans Zimmer, Blue Planet II is world class television that will be watched and loved all over the globe (or the tiny bit of it that isn’t blue, anyway). And, who knows, it might even nudge us a fraction closer to trying to save it.

TV extra:


Ball and Boe: Back Together

Are Ball and Boe the new Ant and Dec? Or perhaps the new Cannon and Ball (no relation)? There was certainly something charmingly old-fashioned about the West End stars’ latest TV special – a mix of showtunes and comic bantz that stole whole pages from the Morecambe and Wise playbook (guest Imelda May was introduced as Brian May, and so on). Cheesy, yes – but I suspect for a large, neglected section of the viewing public, this was one of the year’s TV highlights.


Creeped Out

Remember when children’s telly was **properly** scary? My generation was scarred for life by shows like Chocky and Children of the Stones – and now CBBC is attempting to revive the tradition with this anthology of spooky stories. The dramas themselves are a mixed bag, but The Curious – a hooded figure in a crude, misshapen mask who links all the tales together – is such a terrifying creation, parents might want to dig out the mattress protector, just in case.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, November 2, 2017

(c) Waitrose Weekend