Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Wild: Killer Whales in the UK?

The series Wild is an almost bizarre mish-mash of half an hour and hour long programmes about various locations and species with "access to never-before seen footage".

It includes episodes about the "mysterious batwomen of Panama" who are in fact rather unmysteriously studying the bats and just happen to all be women; next to some brilliant presenting by Saba Douglas-Hamilton despite ironically discussing the terrors of poaching weaponry whilst wearing a leopard-print top. There's absolutely no connection between the episodes in locality, species, behaviour or presenting manner, but they are still quite fascinating in a kind of brief encounter "The One Show" style. The episodes presented by Saba and Gordon Buchanan are quite personal presenter-story led and include a bit more action on Saba's part (including her swimming through bat guano), as well as quite a bit more comedy on Gordon's.

For this reason in fact, I found my favourite to be "Killer Whales in the UK?" presented by Gordon. Gordon Buchanan started his career as a camera assistant to Nick Gordon who helped bring us the Life of Birds and The Heart of the Amazon. Gordon went on to be a big part of Big Cat Diary, The Natural World and Springwatch, and has evidently only recently come around to the idea of presenting.

Gordon's style of presenting is brilliant! He's very colloquial and chatty as we follow him to the Shetland Isles where he is to set up his "Killer Whale HQ" in a lighthouse. He has a lovely Scottish accent which is relatively rare in Natural History presenting and is refreshingly comical, and even slightly satirical: At one point he delights in the presence of inquisitive seals coming to meet him, as while they're looking at him a killer whale might come up, throw one of them in the air, kill it and eat it so he can catch it all on camera!

This episode is in fact all about Gordon: Gordon gets fed up waiting for the whales so he goes to visit some Puffins and attempts to woo them by copying their moaning sounds; Gordon gets attacked by gulls; Gordon flirts with the locals; Gordon gets bored of looking for killer whales so starts to sing and make seal sounds to keep his spirits up... and all of this is actually really good to watch! He's personable and fun and still gets across some interesting bits and bobs about wildlife too! It feels like he really is fascinated by the animals and it's nice to see things from a cameraman's perspective. He has to grab the right lens to see if a wild otter has caught something, and has to be careful when rushing to film a porpoise, that he gets his tripod set up safely!

There's also some cheesy pop played over the top to match his jovial manner such as Lionel Richie's "Hello, is it me you're looking for?" and Van Halen's "Jump!" to get guillemot chicks in the mood to leap a few hundred feet down a cliff before their swim to Norway! It's all good fun, although the story ends slightly disappointingly (I don't want to spoil it) and we get to see Gordon's motivation repeatedly rediscovered to the serenade of Blondie's "One way or another, I'm gonna find ya".

If you're a fan of British wildlife, which I hope you are, and you're in the mood for something lighthearted one evening, try to get hold of this episode because it really is a simple pleasure to watch! The only negative thing I'd say is that in terms of footage that's never been seen before it's one of the only episodes that's particularly lacking!

(Wild was produced by Tom Hugh-Jones and Chris Cole, and episodes are available to view on the BBC iPlayer alternately over the next few weeks.)


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