The first nature programmes went as close to the animals as the crew dared without becoming their subject’s lunch. Later, remote devices with super-zoom lenses took viewers eye-to-eye with species.
The latest breakthrough series in the genre, though, starts by massively backing away. Emperor penguins in Antarctica or Amazonian manatees are first seen from 36,000km above, in images captured by satellites. Earth from Space, which starts tonight on BBC One, is billed as a “new perspective”, and it spectacularly delivers. While TV viewers are familiar with the medium’s visual rhythms, from closeup to long-shot, this show takes them to the absolute extreme.
“We have the ultimate long-shot in this,” says producer Chloë Sarosh – though it also boasts the ultimate closeups. Using images on three levels – satellites, drones and cameras on the ground – sequences can track an animal from a God’s eye image to what its