Appellate Judge Kent Dixon became certified as an Advanced Open Water scuba diver this year (really, he did!). Sadly, there's not much diving on the prairies!
"Our planet is a blue planet: over seventy percent of it is covered by the sea. The Pacific Ocean alone covers half the globe. You can fly across it non-stop for twelve hours and still see nothing more than a speck of land. This series will reveal the complete natural history of our ocean planet, from its familiar shores to the mysteries of its deepest seas."…Richard Attenborough
Five years before the BBC documentary series Planet Earth was produced, the same director and production team spent five years filming at almost 200 locations to creating The Blue Planet in 2001.
Facts of the Case
Blue Planet was the first documentary series of its kind, taking an intimate look at the majesty, beauty and awesome spectacle of Earth's oceans and the stunning array of life they support. Like Planet Earth: The Complete Series, The Blue Planet: Seas of Life is narrated by naturalist and well-known BBC broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, and the score is provided by George Fenton, who also scored Planet Earth: The Complete Series.
First released on DVD in 2002 as The Blue Planet: Seas of Life, the series has just been re-released in a 5-disc special edition, with the series' eight episodes included on the first four discs and a new fifth disc of all-new special features.
Ninety-seven percent of Earth's habitable space is ocean and the quantity of marine life it contains far exceeds that which inhabits the land. With the vastness of our oceans and the near infinite amount of plant and animal life they contain, there is more than enough subject matter to fill The Blue Planet: Seas of Life. It truly is a circle of life, as the nutrients that rise from the depths of our oceans feed the phytoplankton that form the basis of all life in the ocean. Just as smaller fish and animals feed on phytoplankton, they are eaten by larger fish, and so on, as the chain continues and expands.
Ocean life also affects land creatures as well, with the two often existing in the same food chains. From polar bears hunting beluga whales in the inhospitable Arctic, to Emperor penguins being hunted by seals in the Antarctic, ocean life is a key part of all life on our planet. It is a delicate and complex balance; not only the chain of ocean life itself, but also the ways in which both the sun and moon impact tides, plankton and kelp growth and many other elements that make ocean life possible. This series presents the essence of life for many of Earth's species…mating and producing offspring, the interaction of predator and prey, and the many ways in which our oceans support these critical events.
More than 1,000 dolphins feasting on several thousand sardines. An albatross colony half a million strong. Sixty thousand penguins huddled together for warmth in Antarctica. These are just a few of the awesome images you'll see in The Blue Planet: Seas of Life. Assisted by marine biologists from around the world, using some of the most current technology available, the crew witnessed some unique animal behaviors for the first time during production, including the migration of elusive blue whales, and dolphins using bursts of bubbles to herd sardines into "bait balls." To be expected, there are some intense scenes that children might find scary, as at times, this truly is nature in its most raw form.
While each episode stands well on its own, all eight episodes of the series perfectly fit together into an expansive picture of our planet's diverse oceans and the millions of life forms that call them home, or directly benefit from them. The cinematography is simply stunning. It's difficult not to be drawn into the intimate portraits of the many creatures whose habitats and behaviors are explored throughout the series, and it's also worth noting that by watching the entire series, viewers begin to see interconnections, but never duplications, between all eight of the episodes.
Eyes & Ears
As you can imagine, with filming at nearly 200 individual locations throughout the series, The Blue Planet: Seas of Life is a veritable feast for the eyes. The sheer number of animals and plant life you see throughout this series is mind-boggling. On the audio front, Sir David Attenborough's insightful narration is solidly grounded in the center channel, with both the score and environmental sounds free to roam the rest of the mix in a truly immersive audio presentation. I kept expecting to feel salt spray on my face!
Each disc in the set offers an assortment of extras, including short "Making of" featurettes narrated by Sir David Attenborough, as well as some other assorted goodies like photo galleries, interviews and short trailers for other BBC productions.
The fifth disc in this new release holds the bulk of the extra features in four new short features: "Amazon Abyss," "Dive to Shark Volcano," "Being There: Antarctica," and "Being There: Between the Tides."
"Amazon Abyss" explores the world beneath the surface of the Amazon River. Until this feature was filmed, no one had ever explored the depths of the Amazon due to the harsh conditions. The Amazon's swift and treacherous currents and dark water, stained by sediment, conceals ¼ ton Cayman alligators, stingrays, piranhas and anacondas. Veteran divers and naturalists braved the challenge to explore this new frontier.
"Dive to Shark Volcano" joins divers on a search for seven species of sharks in seven days near Cocos Island, 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica.
Accompanied by dramatic historical narration, "Being There: Antarctica" takes viewers on a visual journey of the landscape and wildlife of Antarctica.
"Being There: Between the Tides" is the only one of the new features that I found to be somewhat lacking. The narrator on this piece is not as strong as Sir David Attenborough, and as it also showed the interactions between wildlife and various water bodies, I found myself wondering why this was even included in the release. It is along the same lines as the main feature, but nowhere near the same level of production quality.
The Blue Planet has also been turned into a theatrical presentation called The Blue Planet Live! that toured the U.K. in 2006 and is continuing in 2007. The live presentation consists of the entire miniseries being projected on screen while conductor George Fenton and the Manchester Camerata Orchestra accompany the presentation with the series' score. Now that would be an experience!
As a side note, George Fenton's compositions are so beautiful and compliment the visuals so well, that I would have loved to have an isolated score option with this release.
Stunning footage, a compelling musical score, and little-known facts about some of Earth's most amazing creatures…there is something for everyone in this release. You owe it to yourself to see The Blue Planet: Seas of Life.
It's too easy to become caught up in everyday life and stresses and miss the beauty and drama of the natural world. Taken on its own, The Blue Planet: Seas of Life is a stunning experience almost guaranteed to leave you breathless, and paired with Planet Earth: The Complete Series, the overall package delivers an unequalled natural documentary experience. The Blue Planet: Seas of Life set the bar very high for all nature documentaries to come, delivering a presentation that is both breathtaking and its presentation and exhaustive in its educational depth.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
• "Making of" Featurettes
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