The episodes are presented in a smooth English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix and with the vast majority of the sound being made up of dialogue and background music, the two channel tracks does a fine job. Ambient and background noise sounds fine as does the score and the narration is crystal clear. There are no problems with hiss or distortion and the levels are all properly balanced.
The extras on the first four discs in the set are identical to those contained on the previous DVD releases of Blue Planet but the fifth disc in this collection does contain some new, exclusive content. Here's a look:
Disc One: The first disc contains two making of documentaries, on that covers Ocean World (9:31) and the other covering Frozen Seas (9:49). Attenborough narrates each one and it's interesting to see just how much work was put into these productions given the harsh weather and the scarcity of blue whales. Interesting stuff! Also on this disc is an interview with Doug Allen (6:15) where he discusses, with a thick Scottish accent, shooting the project. Also look for a music video (4:45), some fact files and a still gallery.
Disc Two: Again, we get making of featurettes for both of the segments included on this disc: Open Ocean (9:43) and The Deep (9:43). Attenborough narrates again and he explains the complexity of shooting in open ocean over hundreds of days and the dangers of treading into the deeper parts of the ocean. An interview with researcher Penny Allen (8:16) is here along with more fact files and a still gallery
Disc Three: Two more making of documentaries, once again narrated by Attenborough, one a piece for Seasonal Seas (9:28) and Coral Seas (9:44). The segments where the cameramen explain the difficult of certain shots are quite interesting as is some of the behind the scenes footage. Look for an interview with producer Alastair Fothergill (8:14) in which the man discusses the importance of exploring the ocean and how so much of it is left to explore. Also here is a still gallery, more fact files, and trailers for BBC America, Walking With Dinosaurs, and Walking With Prehistoric Beasts.
Disc Four: Again, we get a making of documentary for Tidal Seas (9:50) and another one for Coasts (9:43) with Attenborough narrating once more. These pieces cover the importance of timing when it comes to shooting the tides and the difficulty of getting good footage of killer whales. Also included on this disc is Deep Trouble (48:52) which is a documentary that covers the dangers that industrial fishing poses to various species of sea life and the impact this can have on the environment. Fact files, a still gallery and trailers for BBC America, Walking With Dinosaurs, and Walking With Prehistoric Beasts round out the disc.
Exclusive to this set are four new documentaries available on DVD for the first time:
Amazon Abyss (51:41) covers the underwater world that lies at the bottom of the Amazon river. We watch as a team of divers goes to the bottom of the river where they have to deal with poor visibility and scheduling difficulties. We then learn about the different types of fish that live in the area and some of the strange habits they have (one fish will swim up your urethra!) that make them unique. We watch as bait is used to catch footage of various scavengers and we see a few different flesh-eating fish do their thing in some rather disturbing footage of the Canderoo. Along the way we see what the divers have to do and we see new species of fish captured on camera for the first time.
Dive to Shark Volcano (51:15) brings us to Cocos Island off the shore of Costa Rica. This island was formed by a volcano and for various reasons, loads of sharks hang out in the area. We learn about the ecological oddities of the area that make it such a rich area for sea life and we then go underwater with the dive team to investigate the different kinds of sharks that call the region home. We watch a group of white tips hunt at night, we witness a feeding frenzy, and we see divers deal with the streams and currents under the sea that keep the water moving so quickly in the area.
Being There: Antarctica (29:45) is an overview of the weather conditions and geography that make up this harsh part of the world. Once that's over with we get a look at some of the wild life that lives on the continent, penguins primarily. We see how they deal with the extreme cold and see the effect that the weather has on the area.
Being There: Between the Tides (28:59) examines the effect that the tide has as it comes and goes on the shores of Africa. We see how boards and sea life react to it and how this affects various land animals as well. We see seals and birds react accordingly once the tides move and close out with a picturesque sunset.
Those who already own the first DVD release of Blue Planet may not find enough new material to warrant a new purchase but anyone interested in the plethora of life beneath the ocean's surface owes it to themselves to add this fantastic set to their collection. Great audio and video quality, decent extra features and some breathtaking undersea footage make this set highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.