The Blue Planet - Seas of Life
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // $59.98 // October 2, 2007
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 7, 2007
Highly Recommended
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The Series:

An eight part documentary from the producers of the excellent Planet Earth series, Blue Planet takes viewers into the oceans to places never before filmed and shows us creatures never known to have existed. Each of the eight separate parts (they run roughly fifty-minutes each in length) explores a different aspect of the undersea world through some truly remarkable footage. Sometimes what we see is sometimes cute, sometimes horrifying, and sometimes completely bizarre but all of it is very real and beautifully photographed. Narrated by David Attenborough, the series proves to be both a treat for the eyes and the mind as the eyes. Here's a look at the eight parts that make up Blue Planet:

Disc One:

Ocean World: The introductory episode follows the mighty blue whale - hands down the largest mammal on the planet - as it migrates around the ocean before educating us on the impact that the sun and the moon have on the changing tides and conditions of the sea world. We travel around the world and explore the Atlantic, and the Pacific oceans where the complex world that lives undersea is explained to us.

Frozen Seas: This second segment explores ocean life as it exists in colder conditions around Antarctica. We see how plankton feeds whales and we watch in horror as a pair of killer whales separate a blue whale and her baby only to eat the smaller creature as the mother watches, completely helpless. We learn about the migration of certain species and the effect that temperature has on various fish and their spawning practices. We also learn about the breeding habits of Emperor Penguins and how certain seals have learned to live in the area and deal with predators.

Disc Two:

Open Ocean: This episode opens with a fantastic scene in which a group of marlin hunt a school of sardine at which point a tuna and then a whale move in to scavenge. We see dolphin herd up mackerel only to be preyed upon by a sailfish moving faster than some cars are capable of! We see how refuse is turned into a base of operations for small fish and how seaweed brings parasites, which in turn bring more sea life to the area. Also in this episode is some genuinely amazing footage of a school of dolphins playing in the waves.

The Deep: By far the most unusual episode in the set, this one takes us over a thousand meters below the surface of the ocean where strange sea creatures have adapted and evolved to life in a world without life. Witness alien looking jellyfish that reflect the lights from the cameras and give off a display of laser-like colors and marvel at the eighteen-month process in which hagfish devour the corpse of a dead whale. We see how bio-luminosity helps various species hunt or evade death and we learn a little bit about the ocean floor.

Disc Three:

Seasonal Seas: This episode, which obviously follows the effects the seasons have on the ocean, begins by explaining how certain gray seals will move when foul weather moves into the area only to breed in the worst weather possible. From there we watch as a basking shark filters plankton out of the ocean before heading down into a bed of kelp to meet the various species of fish that call this garden home. When summer rolls around and the waters warm, lobsters lay their eggs and salmon return to the area around Nova Scotia hoping to evade the sharks that have followed. Dolphins play during the warmer months but as fall and then winter come back around, hand fish mate and sea dragons move their eggs across the bed of the ocean.

Coral Seas: The fourth episode explains how coral reefs are formed when a single larva lays down its roots to grow. Algae arrive and attract more corals and soon enough a reef is born which in turn attracts a multitude of creatures. Parrotfish show up and eat the coral and when they digest the limestone coat they produce sand, which in turn create beaches and even islands. Starfish move in followed by small crabs that prey on them. Moray eels hunt the area at night, as do White tip sharks. We learn how a storm can destroy a reef and in turn how the cycle of life can start anew again with one single coral.

Disc Four:

Tidal Seas: We start this episode by watching a tidal wave go up the Amazon river and how it is so powerful that it destroys much of the forest surrounding the area. The moon and its gravitational pull cause all this and it affects not only the Amazon area but also parts of North America and Australia. We see herring react in the Bay of Fundy and learn the importance of the sand bubbler crab in the eco-system. We see raccoons scrounge in a tide pool for food and we see a party of land crabs migrate for spawning purposes. Dolphins head towards land to capture fish and instinctively know to use the tides to their advantage.

Coasts: Brazilian green turtles migrate over five thousand miles to a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to lay eggs, only to return to Brazil afterwards - amazingly, these turtles do not eat during this process. Ridley's turtles head inland to lay their eggs as do an odd breed of fish around Newfoundland called capelin. Millions of birds gather along the Russian coastline only to become lunch for some eagles, while over forty thousand walruses cram onto a single one-mile stretch of beach to escape from the cold of the sea. Last but not least, off the coast of Patagonia a pack of killer whales stalk young sea lions at the same time and in the same place year after year.

The DVD:


Blue Planet looks pretty impressive in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen which is exactly how the eight main episodes are presented in this collection. The blues look nice and deep while the black levels stay consistent and rich throughout. The various colors of the thousands of different sea creatures we witness are all well defined and there are no problems to report with print damage, dirt or debris. There is some minor mpeg compression evident in a couple of episodes and just the slightest bit of diagonal line shimmering but you really have to look for it to see it - Blue Planet looks very nice on DVD.


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.

Disc Five:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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