Blue Planet II review: BBC documentary creates a spectacle out of Earth's deepest secrets

Devansh Sharma

May 18, 2018 16:16:37 IST

With Poseidon's implicit consent, a brave crew of explorers stepped into the vastness of Earth's oceans in order to change the way we look at the blue realm. In fact, it is not even blue in entirety. Blue Planet II explores the latent iridescence beneath 70 percent of Earth's surface.

Picture shows: This flapjack octopus lives in the deep waters off California. It is a type of dumbo octopus, so-named for the fins it uses to move through the water. Portrait of scientific specimen, collected by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, California.

A flapjack octopus in a still from Blue Planet II

In the two episodes of this Sony BBC Earth seven-part series that are being screened in India, the oceans reveal a wide range of colours, from phytoplanktons that emit an aqua glow to a unique creature called The Venus' Basket that houses a spectrum of its own in the deepest recesses of Earth. These colours prove the planet has its own ways of dealing with its blues.

But since humans are busy reveling in theirs, they fail to take cues from their home. Over centuries, they have explored newer horizons but barely dove into the depths of the ocean. They have looked too far but not looked deep enough. Blue Planet II strives to address this concern, but not by showing them the mirror. It does so by urging humans to look beneath their reflections on the surface of the water.

As the legendary narrator David Attenborough's profound voice establishes, "We know more about Mars than we know of our oceans." This confinement of knowledge was hitherto being attributed to technological setbacks and political backlash. But Blue Planet II dares to go beyond that, and the outcome is astonishingly stunning.

The most gripping story across both the episodes — One Ocean and The Deep — is that of a menacing Giant trevally relentlessly pursuing terns that fly above the surface. A baby tern, who has learnt flying recently, takes a breather on the ocean surface not realising that its altitude and trajectory can be measured by its would-be-predator. Hans Zimmer's background score, that is immersed in a sense of urgency, adds drama to this chase, which results in a close shave of epic proportions.

This chase scene comes the closest to a similar, BAFTA-winning sequence in Planet Earth II where a baby iguana escapes a racer snake. But the blue counterpart of Planet Earth II lacks the balance that the latter struck, between the micro and the macro. Planet Earth II transcended the appeal of enormous scale and also boasted of substance. While Blue Planet II is not completely devoid of the same, the meat here is relatively quite less.

For example, it does not have a dolphin yearning for love or a polar bear craving company. It delves more on the Darvanian concept of survival. However, to its credit, it does lend a new dimension to the adage of "survival of the fittest." Here, the survival does not always warrant a confrontation.

Hundreds of walruses are seen losing the warmth, that their icy habitats provide, to global warming. And their new homes are already occupied by polar bears who have their eyes set on the baby walruses. The walruses, much bigger in size, do not confront their opponents but rather invest their energy in saving their babies. At the alert sounded by one member of the walrus community, they swiftly (as swift as it can be for a walrus) jump into the glacial oceans as the polar bears cannot enter that territory. Thus, survival no longer implies protecting one's territory by guarding the borders. Animals, unlike their 'wiser' counterparts, realise the cost of war, and unsustainable growth.

The far reaching effects of the expansionist streak of humans is also shown in Blue Planet II without any trace of human life. Ruins of vessels and oil tankers are spotted in deep oceans but at the same time, it is established that life also blooms there, in the midst of all the decay. Snailfish, the deepest-living specie known yet, is also introduced in the second episode.

What Planet Earth II proved, Blue Planet II highlights. The greens and blues of our planet stand diluted, irrevocably. While it is crucial we stop oiling this damage machine, it is imperative to look beyond life as we know it. And for that, a Mars exploration need not be the need of the hour.

Updated Date: May 18, 2018 18:05:35 IST