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Ocean Giants (BBC) - First episode reviewed

Ocean Giants

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE first part of BBC1’s new nature documentary Ocean Giants was as spectacular and awe-inspiring as we’ve come to expect.

Narrated by Stephen Fry and showcasing the work of world renowned underwater cameramen Didier Noirot and Doug Allan, it exists to answer the question: “What is it like to live your life as an ocean giant?”

The first hour took us from the deep blue oceans of Hawaii, where humpback whales took part in amazing courtship battles, to the freezing waters of the Arctic, where gigantic bowheads occasionally appeared amid the spectacular ice.

En route, it astounded and fascinated us with all kinds of facts and rituals – some harrowing (as in the feeding habits of Killer Whales on migrating grey whales), some outrageous (the mating habits of Southern Right Whales off the coast of Patagonia) and some just plain beautiful (visions of blue whales diving off the coast of Sri Lanka for kelp).

Admittedly, Fry’s narration lacked the breathless gravitas of the BBC’s maestro, David Attenborough, but such criticisms seem churlish when set against the high entertainment value of this first hour of three.

And boy did the mind-boggling facts topple out of the show: whether to do with the various weights of whales (one-ton testicles), the size of their attributes (nine-foot penises), some of their life spans (over 200 years), or the debunking of the illusion that they were merely gentle giants (violent courtship).

Indeed, it’s no wonder the Beeb has opted to show it after the 9pm curfew given the frisky nature of much of the footage, including the Southern Right Whale orgy that gave rise to the penises!!!! This was far from the cuddly Sunday night viewing some viewers may have been expecting.

But you could only gawp and admire… the entrancing beauty of whales captured in often breathtaking fashion and at great personal risk to the daring camera-men who risked serious injury (and even death) to get their footage.

True, we could probably have lived without extended footage of those Orcas savagely attacking a grey whale and her calf. But then nature is violent and unsentimental, no matter how beautiful.

And even the planet’s biggest and most beguiling creatures are not immune to being hunted, or emotions such as jealousy it seems.

But take nothing away from this programme: for Ocean Giants looks set to become another standard-raising hit for BBC Wildlife that promises to keep us gob-smacked for another two episodes. And with dolphins still to come…

Episode two reviewed