BBC Natural History Unit

Our friend in the West: Julian Hector

Julian Hector (Credit: BBC)

As BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit turned 60 this autumn, 2017 was a particularly exciting and busy year. But I was nervous about whether Blue Planet II would equal the impact of Planet Earth II almost a year previously.

In November 2016, Planet Earth II attracted record TV audiences in the UK; the series went on to win RTS, Bafta and Emmy awards. That sequence of racer snakes hurling themselves at hatchling marine iguanas won a Bafta for TV’s most memorable moment.

Sir David Attenborough returns to present Blue Planet II

The successor to the award-winning Blue Planet from BBC Studios Natural History Unit follows the huge success of last year's Planet Earth II, also presented by Attenborough.

The seven-part documentary series has been four years in the making, with a team of wildlife filmmakers exploring the hidden depths of the earth's oceans for the return of the unique visual experience.

Sir David Attenborough said he was "truly thrilled to be joining this new exploration of the underwater worlds which cover most of our planet, yet are still its least known.”

BBC reveals slate of original Natural History docs

The schedule includes BBC One's Attenborough And The Giant Sea Dragon, a one-off special exploring Britain's Jurassic Coast and the recent discovery of gigantic fossils embedded in a cliff face.

Natural history icon Sir David Attenborough will use the latest scanning techniques and 3D imaging to bring back to life the ichthyosaur, and reveal more about the ocean predator's way of life.

Life in the Air

Series producer, James Brickell, and episode producers Giles Badger and Simon Bell took us through the ‘mechanics’ of the series, which explained the mechanics of how cats leap three metres from a standing start to catch their prey, snakes fly and ‘shy and nervous' sparrow hawks fly low to the ground at incredible speeds to snatch the birds from the feeders in our gardens.

“We wanted to deconstruct the science behind the fundamentals of how animals and birds launch themselves into the air, though extraordinary physiology", explained Series producer, James Brickell. 

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Asif Quraishi (Credit: C4/Phil Fisk)

Filmmaker Marcus Plowright meets members of the clandestine gay Asian (‘Gaysian’) community, who often struggle to publically reconcile their sexuality with their culture and religion.

Our Friend in the West: Mike Gunton

Mike Gunton

Last week, I was standing in a fly-fishing shop in a small town in Montana telling the owner I worked for the BBC Natural History Unit. "Oh, so you're from Bristol," was his reply.

OK, he was a wildlife fan and did then ask if David Attenborough was my neighbour, but it does illustrate that Bristol and the NHU's reputation go far and wide.

I joined in my late twenties to work on the Attenborough blockbuster The Trials of Life. I thought I'd stay for the three years it took to make the series and then move on.