The Daily Telegraph
Frozen Planet beasts are cold-blooded killers
Producers tell viewers that some scenes of predator hunts in sequel to TV series are ‘hard to watch’
‘You’re there to film what happens but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. It can be really horrible to watch’
THE makers of BBC One’s Frozen Planet II have issued a content warning to viewers, saying scenes of animals being killed by predators are “hard to watch”.
The opening episode of the natural history series, fronted by Sir David Attenborough, features footage of newborn musk ox calves being picked off by grizzly bears in the Arctic tundra.
In another episode, an eagle in the Alps drags a chamois calf from a mountainside and throws it to its death. The sequence drew gasps of horror when it was shown to a preview audience last month. Alex Lanchester, one of the series producers, said he had struggled to watch the scenes while filming them. “It could be very hard to watch some of these predation sequences,” he said.
“You’re there to film what happens, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. It can be really quite horrible to watch some of the things that happen.”
The most stunning sequence in the first episode, to be broadcast on Sunday, shows a “ruthlessly efficient” team of killer whales targeting a seal on an ice floe.
They swim in tandem and synchronise their tail beats, causing a wave which breaks up the ice and forces the seal into the water.
They then blow bubbles to disorientate the tiring seal, before moving in for the kill. According to the programme, only 100 killer whales in the world use this hunting technique.
Mark Brownlow, the executive producer, said: “I was privileged to direct the killer whale sequence. Getting eyeball to eyeball with a 10m killer whale is something you will never forget. “They are arguably the most sophisticated predator on this planet and to watch them hunt and catch seal after seal was extraordinary.”
The decision to feature so many kills in this series signals a shift, after several natural history productions in which the BBC chose to focus on chases in which the prey escaped.
In Planet Earth II, footage of an iguana fleeing from racer snakes became a viral sensation and won Bafta’s Must-see Moment award.
Mike Gunton, executive producer of Planet Earth II , said after that series was shown in 2016: “When I joined the Natural History Unit, there was a phrase that people used to say: ‘Have you got the kill?’
“But if that iguana had been killed, it would not have had the same impact. When you’re watching a film, who are you rooting for? The guy with the gun or the guy trying to get away from the gun?”
Frozen Planet II comes 11 years after the original series and involved 102 shoots around the world.
It carries a strong message about the perils of climate change – the producers refer to polar bears in Norway as “climate refugees”.
Mr Brownlow said: “With these record-breaking temperatures we’re all experiencing, I think a series like this has never been more relevant. It’s not just a piece of entertainment – hopefully, it will draw attention to the changes taking place right now.
The BBC hopes that the series, when sold abroad, will reach an audience of one billion.
The featured wildlife also includes Siberian tigers, pandas and Emperor penguins, filmed in temperatures as low as -50C. In the Himalayas, the crew worked with specialised helicopter pilots who flew them to 7,000m.
Filming took them to some of the most remote places on Earth, which presented challenges. As the team crossed the Drake Passage and sailed towards Antarctica to film killer whales, one member fell ill with an infection.
The ship had to sail to a British Antarctic Survey base for assistance, then a further 500 miles north to deposit the sick crew member on a cruise ship before resuming its original course.