Earth from Space

Earth from Space
Satellite image of the Sundarbans, the largest delta in the world. COPYRIGHT © 2018, DEIMOS IMAGING SLU, AN URTHECAST COMPANY. Image Credit: BBC/DEIMOS IMAGING SLU

When you watch the opening moments of this programme you realise you are in for a stunning visual treat.

As the title suggests, Earth from Space uses satellite technology to give us a bird-eye view of our planet, allowing us to see some of the world’s most remote locations, and observe life from far away. We also have on-the-ground camera crews filming normally what we see from the satellites.

In this opening episode, we see among other highlights elephants in Kenya trying to survive through a drought, learn how satellite technology has helped us track new populations of penguins by observing where they defecate, seals trying to survive on a Siberian lake where circular patches appear on weak ice, and a large performance of Chinese students performing a display of Shaolin Kung Fu where from above you can see them forming huge shapes and patterns.

The camerawork and visuals are clearly the main draw to this programme. We witness so many changes in such a rapid time that they take your breath away, and we learn how this technology has given us a better understand of our world. For example, we can see how winds pick up dust from the Sahara and carry it across the Atlantic so it can fertilise the soil in the Amazon.

Some of the on-the-ground camerawork choices are a bit questionable however. For example, while it is interesting to know the penguin manure allows us to track these birds across the Antarctic, do we really need to see so many penguins poo before our eyes. The first time you see it you might consider it funny, but when they get close-up on one penguin doing it, it starts to repulse you. Yes, penguins are cute, but penguins pooing is much less so.

The series is narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), and while he does add gravitas to the programme, his long pauses do end up getting a bit annoying after a while. I found myself being able to guess correctly what he was saying before Ejiofor said it.

Earth from Space is certainly stunning visually. Just make sure someone at the BBC notes down we would like to a bit less bird diarrhoea.

Earth from Space is on BBC One at 21.00 on Wednesdays.