The BBC’s Planet Earth II has enthralled millions of viewers with its high-definition return to the natural world. And among the many people to have played an important role behind the camera in bringing the documentary to television screens is a Plymouth doctor with a head for heights.
Dr Lucy Obolensky, programme lead for the Global and Remote Healthcare masters degree within the University of Plymouth Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, supported Sir David Attenborough as a medic in the hot air balloon sequence for the opening scene of the series. And it’s just the latest example of Lucy’s long-running engagement work with the broadcaster.
“I’ve been working with the BBC intermittently over the last decade, mostly teaching advanced medical skills to crews visiting remote parts of the world,” says Lucy. “On this occasion, I was asked to be a part of a team of doctors seconded to different programmes in the series.
“Usually we would provide training to the crew, but because the Planet Earth II teams were being deployed to some austere environments, they decided that they needed doctors to accompany them. I was the lucky one who was sent up in the balloon with Sir David; my colleague James Moore, by contrast, had to spend 16 days in sub-zero temperatures camping in a penguin pool!”
For the island-focused programme, Lucy spent five days with Sir David and the team at Chateau d’Aix in Switzerland – and it all went smoothly up to a point.
She says: “Everything up there was phenomenal, the most amazing views. We had a bit of a bumpy landing though – the basket tipped the opposite way to that which we were expecting and rather than supporting Sir David I actually ended up on top of him! Luckily, no harm was caused to our national treasure!”
In the programme devoted to ‘the urban environment’, Lucy accompanied Sir David to the top of The Shard for a two-day shoot.
“We walked right to the top – 300 steps and Sir David barely stopped for a breather. He was quite amazing.”