Film & TV

TV Review – Super Senses: The Secret Power of Animals, Episode 1

Debuting last night on BBC Two was a brand new three-part series, Super Senses: The Secret Power of Animals. Presented by physicist/oceanographer Helen Czerski and biologist/wildlife filmmaker Patrick Aryee, these three nature documentaries will detail how different marine and mainland species experience the world via their evolutionary utilisation of the senses.

This first episode, “Sight”, focuses on our dominant visual sense, showing how we as humans use our peripheral vision, light and different colours, and their effects, in comparison with a range of earth’s other creatures. Aryee begins by casually chilling with a cheetah, going on to explain how it may seem some animals have “better” mastered ocular awareness, though in fact every species has adapted to best suit its needs, with cheetah’s using a horizontal line of vision to detect prey, contrasting with our more central sight.

This up close interaction between the presenters and the subjects throughout, enables their expertise to be authenticated. Seeing Aryee so comfortably coalesce with the cheetah and baboons, while elsewhere Czerski is in the depths of a darkened cave of bats, makes their research claims all the more convincing.

Furthermore, Aryee’s experience as an essential crew member on David Attenborough’s celebrated work such as Frozen Planet, is immediately evident in the sensory cinematography on display in the opening episode. In “Sight”, the consistently appropriate use of fast and slow motion, point of view shots and postproduction editing enhances our closeness to the animals by allowing us to see how they perceive their environment.

Most fascinating are the observations of Dragonflies, insects that perceive time far slower than us, making their reactions to movement undetectable in our sense of real time. “These images are just phenomenal” narrates Aryee in the opening sequence, and rightfully so considering the mesmerising aesthetical camerawork permitting us to perceive how the series’ animals so naturally take advatange of their “powers”, much in the way we take our own senses for granted.

Next week’s episode titled “Sound” will presumably make use of our audible perceptibility, while the following concluding chapter “Scent” shall require some sort of inconceivable mass adoption of smellovision. In all seriousness, I’m sure the BBC will make it work.

Super Senses 1

The small experiments carried out by Czerski and Aryee, from fish fireworks, baboon bites and watery witchcraft are great to see, though perhaps there could have been an inclusion of some typically domesticated animals and activities, to give us a more relatable sense of the information. The information itself may not even be new to some viewers, nor groundbreaking, but is nonetheless complementary to the BBC’s brilliant barrage of documentary series, and is open to all.

Tuesday’s episode, and Super Senses as a whole it appears from our line of sight, is an extremely accessible slice of others’ perspective on the world. The complex components are explained in a calm, clear and well-constructed manner, with Czerski and Aryee’s presentation, narration and overall screen time bouncing off one another very confidently. The balance of their expertise remains steady thanks to this ergonomically edited documentary narrative, never overlapping despite the fact they are located in different parts of the world and rarely seen together.

“Sight” was an interesting and investing start to Super Senses: The Secret Power of Animals, and we look, listen and sniff forward to what the next two instalments offer.

Bharat Samra



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Catch Super Senses on BBC Two, Tuesdays at 9pm. The first episode is now on BBC iPlayer.

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Writer and Editor for the Film & TV section of Impact, Bharat is a keen previewer, reviewer and sometimes just viewer, of all things cinematic and televisual, with a particular passion for biographical pictures, adaptations and sitcoms.

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