TV

Small moments make big impact in BBC Earth’s Dynasties

Following the success of 2016's Planet Earth II and last year's Blue Planet II, BBC Earth's new landmark series Dynasties offers audiences an even deeper connection with the natural world.

Presented by Sir David Attenborough, it follows the lives of five of the world's most celebrated yet endangered animals - chimpanzees on the edge of the Sahara in Senegal, West Africa; emperor penguins in the frozen wastes of Antarctica; lions in the grasslands of Kenya's Maasai Mara; painted wolves (African wild dogs) in the floodplains of the great Zambezi river in Zimbabwe; and tigers in the jungles of Bandhavgarh, India - in more detail than ever before, as their environments face destruction and change.

With BBC Studios' Natural History Unit painstakingly filming them over four years, witness their journeys as they do whatever it takes to survive, protect the next generation and secure their own dynasties.

Dynasties premieres today at 9.55pm on BBC Earth (StarHub TV Ch 407) and BBC Player.

Series producer Rupert Barrington talked about what to expect from the five-part show.

Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II were big state-of-the-world events. What reception are you anticipating for something as character-driven as this?

I hope people will see these great charismatic animals in ways they have never seen them before. Our teams have been able to record what their whole lives are like, as opposed to just a single moment.

They have watched these animals facing up to immense challenges and great change with extraordinary resilience.

What really comes through is that for these animals, life is really, really hard.

What moments are you most excited for people to see?

What is interesting about the series is that the moments with the greatest emotional impact are often not the moments of great action or spectacle, while the smaller incidents are critical points in the bigger story.

For example, in the emperor penguins film, there is a lull period after the thousands of penguins have paired off, and where each couple is now waiting and waiting for the female to lay her egg. This can take weeks.

Yet somehow, one couple appears to be far ahead of schedule. The female has a bulge under a fold of her belly, which is the outward sign that she has got her egg safely on her feet, off the ice, keeping it warm.

But then she lifts up her belly and we see (as does her mate, at the same moment) that she actually has an egg-shaped snowball there. Presumably she found it and decided to get in a bit of practise before winter hits.

It is a lovely moment, quite low-key but telling in the context of the story - about how the penguins will have to keep their egg alive through the most brutal winter on earth.

Blue Planet II had a strong ecological message that spilled over into the real-life news agenda. Does Dynasties have a similar underlying ethos?

It does. What comes out of these films, with these big charismatic animals, is that they are running out of space.

They need large areas in which to live out their natural lives, and that space is being chipped away by our growing human population, which leads to conflict.

The animals' natural stories are being changed and kicked off in new directions by interactions with humanity. This is something we see several times in this series.

The end result is that the lives of these animals are becoming even more difficult than they already were. We are seeing this issue of decreasing space through the lens of the animals we feature in the series, but it is becoming a universal problem for animals across the planet.

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