« Previous | Main | Next »

Orbit - Episode One

Post categories:

Aira Idris Aira Idris | 22:00 UK time, Sunday, 4 March 2012

The first episode of Orbit aired on BBC Two, 4th March 9pm, and is now available to watch on iplayer. What did you think?

In the first episode we travel from July - the height of summer in the Northern Hemisphere - to December, and the darkest days of winter. As well as following the seasonal change from summer to winter, the film explores one of the most everyday but significant aspects of our journey around the Sun - the fact that the Earth is spinning on its axis.

We start just inside the Arctic Circle in northern Norway, on a special day. We wanted to film the day when the Sun set for the first time in more than two months - an evocative moment that captures both the seasonal change from summer to winter, and the importance of the Earth's daily 24 hour cycle.

Through this film we wanted to find events which highlighted the importance of the Earth's spin. So Helen goes hurricane chasing to show how the Earth's spin sets weather systems rotating.

Hurricanes was a great way to highlight spin and last years season provided many events to explore - an Atlantic season which some argued was unusual.

Another way we wanted to explore spin was by visiting a place which has the biggest tides in the world. Kate travels to the Bay of Fundy in Canada to show how tides too are a consequence of the Earth's spin.

Whilst back home, Helen uses the Earth's spin to explain why Britain's winter weather is so unpredictable and changeable.

UPDATE 16:00 5th March: We've had a lot of feedback on twitter with a number of viewers asking why Episode One was not available simultaneously on BBC HD.

comment from #bbcorbit feed

The HD Channel tries to promote the best of the portfolio of BBC Channels, but invariably, this can at times lead to clashes in simulcasts - this was the case with the 9pm Sunday slot, where they have been simulcasting the BBC 3 series 'Being Human' for some weeks now. 'Orbit' however has been given a peak repeat slot, on Fridays at 21:00 from the 16th March.

Other comments raised on twitter discussed the set up of having two presenters, and both female at that, which all in all seemed to be well received.

comment from @bbcorbit twitter

Not everyone was impressed however with all that Episode one had to offer, and, with such a landmark series as this, that was to be expected.

comment from @bbcorbit twitter

comment from @bbcorbit twitter

So, what did you make of Episode one? Leave a comment on this post.

(There are a total of three episodes in this series. Episode Two on BBC Two 11th March, 9pm.)


  • Comment number 1.

    Really loved the show. Not wanting to knock Brian Cox, who does a good job in reaching out to a certain sector, I found the greater scientific content of ORBIT much better for me (with physics knowledge). For example, I didn't understand the Coriolis force when taught as an undergrad ... it's now clear! So very well done indeed Kate and Helen.
    As for certain negative comments I've read: twitter is a great place for people to vent, it saves NHS mental health resources ... once again, be proud of a scientifically literate show with fab graphics and presenters.

  • Comment number 2.

    Loved the programme - I'm a lot more clued up on Coriolis force. Well done!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Very basic stuff - mostly things I learned in Junior school - wouldn't it have been better on children's TV?
    And the non-stop background music was very irritating - what on Earth do you hope to achieve with it? Patrick Moore doesn't need it, so neither do you!

  • Comment number 4.

    Absolutely loved this first episode. Basic? @eamonn_shute i think not. Great graphics and photography and the Science had my head spinning at times.

    Dr Helen Czerski was impressive!

  • Comment number 5.

    Extremely interesting and fascinating - but thought Kate Humble was not really needed! Helen Czerski extremely interesting and put the science across very well indeed. Looking forward to the next episode.
    Susanne Umerski

  • Comment number 6.

    Well, they might have dramatically upped the budget for GCSE geography bitesize but I think there will be a lot of kids failing if this is what they use to revise!

  • Comment number 7.

    A pretty good compromise between educating and entertaining, what planet are you on Eamon?, the music and effects add to the enjoyment, and the producers need to decide on an intellectual level that will appeal to as many people as possible, I certainly didnt learn all about this at junior school, or maybe my head was in the clouds as a result of the coriolis effect, at least now I know why!! Dr Helen Czerski, new BBC rising star?? (no pun intended).
    Well done BBC. Can I have my F1 back now please?????

  • Comment number 8.

    really good serie, I have enjoyed it from minute 1 to the end... congratulations!! Just one question... Where about in Equator is the road where the speed isnt the one that car shows ?

  • Comment number 9.

    I must admit this isnt what i would normally look into but wow watching this has enlighted me, very intriguing. Well done on capturing it all.

  • Comment number 10.

    Interesting and entertaining programme bringing back things I learnt at school and expanding on others, tho I really wish that it wasn't so heavily performed in metric, British people just don't want to know how many kilometers distances are. Sorry!

  • Comment number 11.


    Thanks for the comments. @Kathyra, shall I assume you mean the road Kate was travelling on? If so, the road you're looking for is in Ecuador...just North East of Quito. The direction that Kate was travelling is another important factor, as she was travelling due east at 96kph and the Earth's middle moves faster than any other part of the planet as Earth rotates...her speed was multiplied by a great deal...

    A useful site to find out the speed due to rotation of any point on the Earth is this NASA page, all you'll need is your latitude and the speed at the Equator due to rotation which is over 1'600kph https://1.usa.gov/wkzq4T

    @alladinesane_girl - thanks for the comment ;-) I thought i'll grab a few comments from the twittersphere, so no one feels left out of the discussion.


  • Comment number 12.

    Many things to like (and one or two to dislike) about this program. IMO, there is always room for nature to be explained better - and this does a wonderful job on the Earth's nature and how it is influenced by its immediate space context. I hope a future episode covers the Milankovitch cycles.

    The BBC production standard is stunning - the writing is wonderful, the graphics and filming are superlative and Ty Unwin's score is enigmatic

    Is it just me, or does Dr Helen Czerski spoke with virtually the same accent and intonation as Brian Cox? Sorry to say it this way - but - put a wig on Prof. Cox and you have Dr. Czerski - to me. In fact, I found her voice incredibly patronising (this is unfashionable to say but I find Prof. Cox, at times, a tad patronising on his astronomy programmes (but NOT his physics programmes – he is among the most inspiring Physicist I have ever come across)).

    But Dr. Czerski's voice was genuinely tiring and, IMO, VERY patronising - I was genuinely close to turning the programme off because of her voice. Kate Hummel was on the other hand exquisite and treated her audience with the intelligence it has.

    Kevin Nolan,
    Dublin, Ireland.

  • Comment number 13.

    I only saw it was on at the last minute and missed part of the program. As is often the case it was not said when it was being repeated so missed it on HD. This program covered the bits like trade winds that I struggled with at Geography O level. I would really love to see this again and record it so that we can discuss it as a family. iplayer is no substitute for TV. We haven't all got interactive TV with Broadband access. When will it be repeated properly?

  • Comment number 14.

    Sub-Primary school level, patronising stuff. Waste of time (and when will you stop using the cliched format of "Tell us what you're going to say, say it, tell us what you told us"?).

  • Comment number 15.

    wonderful program, just wondering if there will any fact sheets available about this program?

  • Comment number 16.

    Thanks for the comments

    @eamonn_shute – deciding to have music playing in the background reignites a continuing debate - we use it to enhance the drama and emotion of the experience. Not everyone will like the choice of music or the fact that music was used at all, but we aim to educate and entertain, which requires a fine balance.

    @elizabeth Sorry! there are no fact sheets on the series available but depending on what you are after we may be able to put you in the right direction? Alternatively you can reach us on 23degrees@bbc.co.uk

    @lemansdave right now it’s not clear when episode one will be repeated on TV, and if you're not keen on watching it again on iplayer https://bbc.in/wEGGoW, best to keep updated with the scheduling of all TV episodes on the series programme page https://bbc.in/zmhPuL

    Hope that helps...


  • Comment number 17.

    Interesting subject for a science programme (note the proper spelling elizabeth and lemansdave) but turned off when distances were given in kilometres which are meaningless for most of the UK population that still thinks in miles. If distances and speeds really have to be given in kilometres then why not given them as well in miles or is that asking too much.

  • Comment number 18.

    An interesting and informative programme.

    The view of Earth from space of the Sun shining on the arctic circle demonstrated the reason for the Norwegian everlasting twilight very clearly.

    Narration over music is almost always annoying but thankfully the music is quite pleasant and not at all intrusive.

    Like most documentaries nowadays one has to skip the first 5 minutes past the pre-introduction introduction, pre-title introduction and post-title introduction - why not just say what's the programme's about and then get started? Then we could get 5 minutes more of interesting stuff.

    @walwright: 1 mile is approximately 1.6 kilometres. Metric is the international standard for science and is perfectly fine system of units to use for a science programme. I'm comfortable using imperial or metric - but don't give both at the same time. It quickly gets tiresome. And read the story of the Mars Climate Orbiter on why unit systems shouldn't be mixed!

    A point I have to pick up on though is Dr Helen Czerski said the weather is not chaotic. I could be wrong but, I'm sure if she asked the guys at the Met Office they'll say the weather is precisely chaotic. I assume she would already know chaotic does not mean random and this was just a slip of the tongue. Or should this comment be directed at the script writer?

    Also to the script writer: it might be a quirk in your spell-checker but here in Britain we say anticlockwise rather than the American counter-clockwise.

    The explanation of tides slowing Earth was a bit too science-light (the tidal forces cause the Earth to lose energy and transfer it to the Moon, the Earth's rotation slows and the Moon's orbital velocity increases and its orbital distance increases.) This is BBC Two after all - is a more complete explanation engaging or overwhelming?

    Great production and I look forward to the next episode!

  • Comment number 19.

    We have lived in France since 1993. We have a window facing east and at the first winter solstice we noticed the Sun rose at the far right of our land border and at summer solstice it rose at the far left of our land border. The length of that side is approximateley 350 metres. This year at Winter solstice the Sun rose half way between the fer right and the far left and at last year's summer solstice it was at the same distance further to the left. We believe that over those twenty years, the earth's poles have shifted accounting for the changed position of the sunrise. Has anyone had similar experiences and what do the scientists say about this change?

  • Comment number 20.

    Excellent. Perfect pop science, this is what I pay my licence fee for. Clear science explained without jazzy tricks of camera, you found someone who can keep a camera in focus and steady - marvellous- there aren't many about, apparently. You put presenters in without either heroic poses (Cox, Oliver) or, thank heavens, without any jolly banter (Bradbury and Dennis). Lovely simple graphics helped me understand the topic which is the goal, surely, of the broadcast. What a relief to find female presenters, was getting increasingly alienated by the ubiquity of male presence. Men are all fine and lovely but it just gets BORING and indicates lazy TV production.
    But I cannot concentrate on the words if you play music over the text, please, music OR speech not both at same time.
    Grateful viewer.

  • Comment number 21.

    I enjoyed this programme and found it informative, but the section on "the fastest road on earth" had me questioning the reliability of the scientific facts. Speed is relative, and to say that the car is travelling faster just because it is on the equator is pure rubbish.
    Please avoid pandering to the lowest common denominator of scientific ignorance with this tripe

  • Comment number 22.

    I watched and enjoyed the programme, brought back memories to Geography lessons at school!

    Where exactly in Norway was it filmed? It looked like the Lofoton islands in the background.


  • Comment number 23.

    I just sat and read through the archive for the whole 12 months. Very interesting and it has kept me captivated for 4 hours. Thank you for making these interesting programs and sharing your progress as you go.

  • Comment number 24.

    When will episode 2 be broadcast on HD Channel

  • Comment number 25.

    Very interesting programme, but surely, as it is broadcast at 9pm, after the watershed, it would be better presented in a grown up fashion, rather than the primary school style which it is. These are undoubtedly two very nice ladies, but they sound as though they are talking to children.

  • Comment number 26.

    What a terribly disapointing series! Slow, dumbed down, stating the blindingly obvious with a pretence of wonder e.g. "it seems amazing that its still frozen inthe arctic when there are daffodils at home" Really? And the background muzak is really annoying. It sounded such a good idea. Poor show.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hello Aira

    I and my daughter have just managed to watch with Episode 1 on iPlayer. We both learnt a lot from it, and are looking forward to sitting down to Episode 2.

    However, I have a non-scientific query: are you able to tell me what the music is that was used during the explanation of the jet stream in Episode 1 (at 55:16-56:30 here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01d7kd5/Orbit_Earths_Extraordinary_Journey_Episode_1/%29?

    This piece has been used in several documentaries, but I've so far not managed to find anyone who can identify it. Are you able to help? I'm hoping there is a record of the music used in bbc documentaries that is easy to find.

    I hope you can help, because this piece has been bothering me for some time!

    Many thanks.

  • Comment number 28.


    @BillPoster hopefully you can rest easy now..... the piece of music that was playing during Helen's explanation of the Jet Stream is a track called Ancient Crystal from the album titled Fantasy. Have a look on this site to listen to the full track.

    @yarders101 we filmed the piece with Kate in Andenes, Norway...


  • Comment number 29.

    Fantastic - thanks Aira!

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    BBC's "Earth's Extraordinary Journey" Series, scientists admited they heated up the atmospehere during tests, but i need to find how they did this for the video i am making.
    In BBC's program "How Satellites Rule Our World" they commented how the air above the japan earthquake heated up before the event. !!

    connect the dots


More from this blog...

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.