For BBC wildlife producer and director Chadden Hunter, there is a scene in Seven Worlds, One Planet that sums up the show’s mission. The sequence centers on manatees gliding around hot springs in Florida’s crystal blue waters, but its dreamy quality ends with a wake-up call, as drone footage pulls out from the ocean to reveal a shocking reality.
“It was quite a powerful way of giving the magic and beauty that these series usually have, but giving it that extra edge and contemporary resonance,” Hunter said of the scene, which features in the North America episode of Seven Worlds, One Planet premiering Saturday on BBC America.
Hunter said it underlines a new way of working for the famous Natural History Unit at BBC Studios. Gone are the days when wildlife producers can ignore the harm that is being done to the planet. Instead, issues including the climate crisis, overpopulation and deforestation must sit alongside the wonderous footage of nature — as it does in the real world.
“What’s staggering is when you look back to the original Planet Earth. That’s just over a decade old and yet over an 11-part series, you have barely a single word of conservation or environment in it,” Hunter told Deadline. “Over the last 13 years, the change in the zeitgeist, the conversation we are having about the environment means we can’t just put out these glossy beauty pieces.”
Put another way, Hunter said bluechip wildlife shows must “feel topical and not just timeless.” He argued that Seven Worlds, One Planet achieves this in a way previous David Attenborough-narrated shows have not done in the past. With each episode focused on a different continent, it raises conservation issues that are on people’s doorsteps. This felt particularly resonant in the Australia episode, which was brought forward by BBC America last week following the devastating wildfires.
“Because we spend four years making them, so much effort goes into the quality of the camera work and the production values that sometimes it can feel like we’re putting a piece of art on the mantlepiece. What we’re trying to do now is really connect with people. By going to every continent there was a sense of going to everyone’s home,” Hunter explained.
“To find that balance where we do just enough to stir people and make people care, but no too much to put people off with despair is quite a challenge… You need to find space to celebrate the thing you’re trying to save, but what we’re trying to do now — with a deft touch — is to package the conservation message almost simultaneously.”
Seven Worlds, One Planet continues on BBC America on Saturday, January 25, at 9PM.
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