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Television Time: BBC curtain-raises COP26 in Glasgow with global premiere of The Green Planet

Due to air in January 2022, the BBC premiered its new ground-breaking natural history series, billed as ‘Planet Earth from the perspective of plants’, in front of an invited audience at Glasgow’s Pacific Quay IMAX, on Sunday, 31st October 2021.

The Green Planet is a five-part landmark series from BBC Studios’ world-renowned Natural History Unit, for BBC One and iPlayer in the UK and BBC Earth and BBC Player in Asia. It follows David Attenborough as he travels the world – from the rainforests of the tropics to the wildernesses of the frozen north – to explore the extraordinary ways in which plants have learnt to survive and thrive in almost every environment. Using pioneering new filmmaking technology and the very latest science, the series takes the viewer on a journey into a series of magical worlds. It reveals that the lives of plants are as competitive, aggressive, and dramatic as those of animals, and investigates the crucial role plants play in controlling our climate and maintaining our ecosystems.

Ahead of the screening the Game of Thrones star and environmental advocate Maisie Williams addressed the theme of The Green Planet series. Williams remarked to guests, including the series presenter David Attenborough: “Today I want to challenge you to open your eyes and not just look but SEE the green planet around us. As humans, we are hardwired to prioritise animals over plants. It is an informally-proposed form of cognitive bias called ‘plant blindness’. But plants are vital for our survival on this planet. The more we distance ourselves from our greatest allies, the more trouble we are in. I hope that The Green Planet helps change the conversation and makes each of us stop, look, and see the world through a new green lens.”

Citing the 95-year-old naturalist as her inspiration for environmentalism, she added: “It was watching Sir David Attenborough that sparked my passion for the environment. His films showed me the complex web of our eco-system – how extraordinary life on earth is, and yet, how fragile. They showed me how our sublime natural world can be cruel and unfair, but not as cruel or unfair as our human impact. Like many others, it made me resolve that I wanted to help to protect our planet.”

The Bristol-born actor and film-maker also paid tribute to another one of her home-town’s most successful exports, with Williams commenting on the world-famous production house behind the new series: “In my heart I’ll always be a Bristolian, and I’ll always champion another Bristol born institution – the Natural History Unit. I grew up, like so many of us have done, watching their films that told extraordinary stories about the natural world, uniting us in our love of nature. Making our eyes grow wide in wonder as we saw the secrets of the world’s wildlife, lands, oceans and plants. Bringing us a deeper understanding but also framing the perils our planet faces.”

David Attenborough, making his first appearance at COP26 said: “It is quite fitting that The Green Planet will receive its premiere at COP26, and I’m pleased that I could be in Glasgow to see it with an audience. For years plant life has been largely ignored when talking about climate change, but as viewers will see from watching the series, the green ecosystem is at the heart of all life on earth and thus it’s vital that we tackle biodiversity and climate change together.”

Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s Chief Content Officer commented: “The Green Planet couldn’t come at a more critical moment, when this precious kingdom of plants faces its greatest challenge yet – from our own human activities.The series has been a passion project for Sir David, twenty-six years after his Private Life of Plants first aired on the BBC – and for almost seven decades now, he’s not just given us the facts, he’s emotionally engaged audiences globally and inspired us to actand protect our natural world.  Like all broadcasters, the BBC has a critical role to play in informing and inspiring audiences, separating truth from fiction, winning both hearts and heads…  Now on the eve of COP26, I want us to dial our commitment up and lead the way, not just in our natural history content, but across our output.  For it’s when we feel, as well as know, the value of something, that we’re most likely to protect it.”

Following the screening, The Green Planet’s Executive Producer Mike Gunton was joined by Nisreen Elsaim, Paloma Costa and Archana Soreng, members of the United Nations Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change representing Sudan, Brazil, and India, who shared their instant reaction to the film and talked about the importance of our green worlds and what role younger generations can play.

The giant 80x60ft IMAX screen also played a provocative animation ahead of the premiere featuring an electrocardiogram heartbeat that turns into a green plant stem and flatlines, perilously voiced by David Attenborough. As the audience exited the screening, they were confronted with a living plant installation that was abundant at the start of the screening but now appeared decaying and withered bearing the message: ‘Let’s not make Fossil Forests be our Future.’

The Green Planet uses new developments in robotics, moving time-lapse, super-detail thermal cameras, deep focus ‘frame-stacking’ and ultra-high-speed to travel beyond the power of the human eye and make visible the amazing, hidden life of the green planet.

The five-part series for BBC One and PBS in America is made by BBC Studios Natural History Unit. The Executive Producer is Mike Gunton. It was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Director, BBC Content and Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History. For PBS the series is overseen by Bill Gardner, Vice President, Programming and Development. It was co-produced by ZDF and The Open University.

The Green Planet will premiere in  January 2022 for Asia via BBC Earth and BBC Player.

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