7 Amazing Moments In Natural Science Programmes

Here are some of the most memorable moments to look out for in some of the greatest natural science shows ever made.

Wonders of the Universe


Think "Professor Brian Cox" and you'll probably imagine him lyrically explaining big bangs while gorgeous cosmic images float across the screen. But one of the most awe-inspiring scenes of Wonders of the Universe is firmly rooted on Earth and in our past, as he visits an ancient temple in Peru which was built by a lost civilisation "we know almost nothing about". Visiting at sunrise, with the sky purple and sultry, he watches as the rays of our yellow star bring the temple to life, revealing it to be a vast and sprawling solar calendar. It's a spine-tingling moment which reminds us of the sweeping immensity of human history and cultures lost in time.


A craggy, barely controlled wilderness teeming with fierce animals who live above a potentially apocalyptic supervolcano, Yellowstone National Park is immense in every way. This TV series takes us through the four seasons of a typical year in this realm, and there's an ominous sequence set in the dead of winter as wolves slowly stalk hapless elks. Their howls echoing in the barren snowy landscape, the wolves charge at their prey, with the entire pack tearing into one unfortunate elk, dragging it into the snow, overwhelming it with their snapping teeth. You almost don't want to watch, but you can't look away from this reminder of the abrupt and lethal cruelty of nature.

This picture shows Golden jellyfish in Palau.

This picture shows Golden jellyfish in Palau.


Golden jellyfish are a unique sub-species only found in one lake on Earth. There, they teem in their millions - an underwater universe of bobbing, pulsating golden jellyfish, floating in swirling clusters. We watch Professor Brian Cox in Wonders of Life as he goes swimming in what looks like a sea from science fiction, sharing his amazement at the kaleidoscope of creatures all around him. And it's not just the visuals that impress - we learn that the jellyfish actually carry algae in their flesh to enable them to make energy from photosynthesis, just like plants.


They emerge from eggs buried in the sand: an all-consuming army of locusts, ready to strip every particle of available food around them. It's rather terrifying, but the time lapse filmmaking on Wild Africa also makes it strangely beautiful, as we see whole rivers of insects flow across the African plains: unbroken columns of locusts which can reach up to 10 km long. And that's before they can even fly. Then, after gorging on the landscape, the "infantry becomes airborne" in the chilling phrase of the narrator, swooping in over the horizon like an alien invasion. It's enough to make you duck behind a sofa cushion.

This picture shows the death of a star, a Supernova. An explosion so powerful it briefly outshines an entire galaxy.

This picture shows the death of a star, a Supernova. An explosion so powerful it briefly outshines an entire galaxy.


Brian Cox could read a supermarket shopping list and make it sound like profound poetry. So imagine what it's like when he tackles the creation of stars and the cosmic origins of our very essence. In just one of the casually mind-expanding sequences in Wonders of the Universe, he reveals how every atom in our bodies was created in the depths of space, and then whooshes us through to a nebula, which he magically describes as a "stellar nursery where new stars burst into life", before their "voracious hunger for fuel causes them to blow up" to giants and ultimately explode. An apt metaphor for the show's effect on our brains.


The Nile crocodile is a creature older than Africa itself. And its ability to hunt and kill is deeply encoded in its ancient genetic makeup. We see just how stunningly formidable it can be in one sequence of Wild Africa, where one croc slowly glides underwater towards a drinking buffalo, then - like a jagged-toothed jack-in-the-box - the crocodile erupts up from the water to bite onto the buffalo's face. What follows is a grisly tug-of-war, the buffalo trying to back away while the crocodile is literally attached to its cheek, almost dangling in the air. It looks somehow terrifying and absurd at the same time, and we can't help but hope the buffalo wins. It does.

Mist over polyna, Belcher Islands, Hudson Bay.

Mist over polyna, Belcher Islands, Hudson Bay.


Our Easter weekend features the "Great Plains" episode of the landmark series Planet Earth, and it's just too difficult to pick one standout moment. The whole episode is a standout moment, thanks to the cinematic sweep which gives us a bird-eye view of entire continents. We're so far up that we can see the glinting curvature of the Earth, and elephants look like ants. Herds of big beasts run across prehistoric plains - some scattering in fear, some just running because they can. You don't even have to listen to the words - this is as close to pure mental relaxation as television can get.