This three-hour series is essentially a more personalized update of previous BBC programs about cetaceans from Blue Planet on. It's personal in a double sense: first, it reveals to us as never before the *personalities* of dolphins (who are now known to identify each other by name) and various kinds of whales. We eavesdrop on the songs of humpback whales and the communicative sounds of dolphins with scientists who are learning more and more about the intricate patterns of these sounds and what they might mean. We admire the intelligence of their hunting techniques. We look into the eye of a right whale who looks back at us, and we wonder how she feels about the humans who hunted her parents and grandparents almost to extinction. Not that it's all compassion and intellectuality -- the series starts right off with sex and violence, bull whales battling each other for the chance to use the world's longest penis. But the series as a whole brings us much closer to our undersea cousins.
The other personalized aspect is that the main presenters in the series are the two veteran underwater cameramen, Doug Allan and Didier Noirot. The usual format for series like these includes a 10-minute "making-of" at the end of each 50-minute episode. There's no need for that here because the makers of the shots are on camera almost as much as the whales, and their personal quest to get better acquainted with these marine mammals better is the main thread of the story. The result is more low-key and informal than the usual BBC Earth presentation. It's all shot in high-def (the blu-ray is 1080i), but you don't really notice that because the unexpected intimacy of relationships comes across more clearly than the visual spectacle. It's a different sort of series from BBC Earth, and i think a highly successful one.