The mini-series looks at three landscapes in the world that undergo stunning transformations and the biodiversity in them.

Sony BBC Earths Seasonal Wonderlands A stunning series on transformations in natureHippos in Okavango
Flix Documentary Saturday, June 27, 2020 - 12:52

We often hear things like ‘nature has a delicate balance’, or that ‘every creature in nature has its own place’. But we hardly ever come to realise just how delicate this balance is, and how efficient natural ecosystems are. The smallest of organisms to the largest of predators have specific and crucial roles to play. If we could all witness this from above, watch it unfold, I would like to believe that we would cherish our planet’s biodiversity much more and be a lot more careful of damaging it.

Seasonal Wonderlands, three-part mini-series by BBC, does allow one to achieve one of the two things mentioned – to witness how the tiniest of ripples can create a tsunami of transformation in nature and how delicate the balance is. The series is set in three of the most seasonally changeable landscapes on earth, which annually metamorphose astoundingly and unrecognisably.

The first episode takes place in New England in the United States, where the lush greens of the forest transform into surreal fiery yellows and reds in the fall. The second episode is set in Svalbard, Norway, in the Arctic Ocean, where the icy tundra gives way to lush spring and summer. And the third episode takes us through the transformation of the dry Okavango Delta in Africa’s Kalahari Desert as it turns into a thriving wetland with the annual flood of the Okavango river.  


New England

The show takes us through the big and small of these stunning changes, peppered with adaptations of the rich wildlife and the roles that they play. With narration by David Mitcham, and production and executive production by Paul Bradshaw and Jo Shinner respectively, Seasonal Wonderlands has plenty of high definition, slow-motion, and time lapse shots that you expect in a nature documentary. But the narrative and storytelling are also undeniably riveting. It almost feels like watching a drama – the transformations are dramatic after all – complete with characters played by the various wildlife, and their adaptations and interactions that further the plotline.

Arguably, the most fascinating aspect of the show is the latter – the indispensable roles that even the tiniest, seemingly inconsequential organisms play in the vibrant ecosystems of these landscapes. While the changes are marked by seasons, it is creatures that are no more than a few millimetres in size that are as essential to setting off these massive transformations. Such as the tiny termites in Okavango Delta, and the moulds they live in. Over time, these moulds help furthering the flood, and even help turn the surrounding land into small islands with blooming flora in the wetland. Even elephants’ dung in Okavango and the birds’ droppings in Svalbard – waste – become resources that the ecosystem gives and takes back to blossom in amazing ways.


Okavango

Seasonal Wonderlands also provides perspective on environmental degradation, without ever saying those words or even referring to it. The efficiency of these natural systems becomes amply clear in the series, implying that each flora and fauna are indispensable cogs, no matter how small or big. The micro makes the macro. And even though the transformations in these places appear drastic, Seasonal Wonderlands does a fantastic job of showing just how small the change begins.

Seasonal Wonderlands makes it easier to imagine why things start falling apart when we meddle with ecosystems, even if it is in ways that we think are inconsequential or seemingly harmless. Ironically, the series makes little mention of humans or how they interact with these landscapes. It contains no visuals of how people have adversely impacted these landscapes, save for one snippet in the episode on Svalbard. There are no jarring visuals of tree-felling, bulldozing, panicked wildlife or hunting. And yet, watching it in the present day and age makes it painfully clear how such wonderful ecosystems, once aplenty, are now an exception rather than norm.


Svalbard

Watch Seasonal Wonderlands for its stunning cinematography and scenery, gripping storytelling and narration that provides unexpected moments of humour. But most of all, watch it for the awe it inspires about the astounding ways in which nature can transform.

The series premieres in India on Sony BBC Earth on June 27 at 9 pm.

Views expressed are author's own.

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