The greatest nature series of all time’ is how science writer Ed Yong hailed the BBC series Blue Planet II in his piece for The Atlantic in January 2018. Since the series first aired in September 2017 – and more than 14 million viewers tuned in to watch it on BBC One – it has gone on to garner accolades and acclaim. The ‘Most Watched’ programme of 2017 in the United Kingdom was presented with a special Impact Award at the National Television Awards for raising the profile of the issues facing our oceans. It then went on to pick up two BAFTAs in April 2018.
Cinematographer Dan Beecham, a member of the huge team that made the series, speaks of the phenomenal reception it has received from the public. ‘I have to admit to being surprised by the scale of the impact the series has had, both locally and internationally. I think it’s had a really strong effect on the opinions and outlook of the general public, as well as of policy makers. I always knew the series was going to feature strong conservation messages, which is a relatively new thing for the big BBC wildlife series. I was impressed by how strong this messaging was, but also how delicately it was handled. As a result, it’s been really effective.’
He goes on to explain why he believes that Blue Planet II was well placed at this time to make the impact it did. ‘I think we (society) were at a stage where marine conservation issues, especially the issue of plastics, already had a growing amount of support, with a massive ground swell behind them. Blue Planet II helped push this forward to another level and really bring it to the public’s attention. It’s great to see how many cafés, bars and shops are going out of their way to do something about this themselves, before they are forced to by legislation. It’s really exciting and a giant step forward, I think. We’ve still got a long way to go, but things are moving the right way.’
Beecham was involved in shooting the scene that shows giant trevally fish hunting fledgeling terns. Recalling the experience, he says, ‘I worked on the underwater element of this story and the long-lens shots were all done by my good friend Ted Giffords. I remember how overwhelmed I felt when I first saw Ted’s shots as we reviewed the footage in the evenings while we were shooting out in Seychelles. I knew then he’d got some really special stuff. That was a little while ago now and we tend to view the footage so many times that it loses its impact, so it was wonderful to see the shots edited together and finally released to the public after we’d kept the story quiet for so long. It got a great reaction, which was fantastic to watch.’