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Dolphins: Spy In The Pod - Episode 1 review

Dolphins – Spy In The Pod

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FOLLOWING on from the success of the hugely enjoyable Penguins: Spy In The Huddle comes another BBC wildlife extravaganza, Dolphins: Spy In The Pod, offering never before seen footage of one of the nation’s favourite animals.

The results, as we’ve come to expect from the BBC, were spectacular. They were also addictively enjoyable.

Long known as one of the ocean’s most intelligent residents, as well as its most playful, Spy In The Pod sought to bring mesmerising footage of these beautiful creatures at play and duly succeeded in capturing some breathtaking material.

It did so by deploying a vast array of hidden cameras that James Bond’s Q branch would have been proud of – seafaring devices designed to co-exist in the middle of dolphin pods. Hence, these mobile filming devices almost became characters in their own right.

‘Spy turtle’, for example, almost attracted a horny fellow female turtle mid-mating with another male on her back, while spy squid had to make a quick getaway to avoid becoming a meal. All of the cameras had their own adventures to tell, whether with the dolphins themselves (including being caught in a poo stream!) or at the whim of the ocean itself and its many other inhabitants (a wave literally crushed one cam).

But we digress. This was about dolphins and the bottlenose and spinner dolphins that took centre stage were truly a sight to behold.

Highlights included surfing bottlenose dolphins ‘catching waves’ off the coast of South Africa, spinners working together to trap their prey in self-manufactured sandstorms off the Florida coast, and spinners again celebrating one particularly magnificent feast by literally jumping for joy against the backdrop of a sunset.

This was magical, mesmerising stuff.

Special, too, was the ongoing story of the young dolphin learning its trade from a protective mother and its aunts during the first six or so months of its life – some of which required intense learning, followed – almost inevitably – by moments of playful celebration. You couldn’t help but smile and revel in the youngster’s succeses, especially when accompanied by David Tennant’s persistently engaging narration. He has the voice to match the mood of every occasion, be it fun or occasionally perilous.

Perhaps the biggest highlight so far, however (and this is part one of two, remember), was the never-before-captured sight of a mega pod in which literally thousands of dolphins came together for some frivolous, flirtatious and, yes, sexual fun, complete with bubble blowing to create a mind-blowing selection of underwater images to treasure.

At a time when it has become the norm to offset natural beauty with some of its darker, more brutal and unforgiving elements, Spy In The Pod seemed content mostly to revel in its intelligent fun. And it left you in high spirits and chomping at the bit to see what further delights part two can deliver.

Dolphins: Spy In The Pod airs on Thursday nights on BBC1 at 8pm (January 2 and 9, 2014)