Life in Cold Blood is a BBC nature documentary series written and presented by David Attenborough, first transmitted in the UK from 4 February 2008 on BBC One. A study of the evolution and habits of amphibians and reptiles, it is the sixth and last of Attenborough's specialised surveys following his major trilogy that began with Life on Earth.
The series comprises five 50-minute programmes, each one followed by Under the Skin, a 10-minute section that features Attenborough interviewing the scientists whose work has led to the sequences included in the main programme. It also examines the challenges faced by the crew and reveals some of the techniques used to film the series.
The series is a co-production between the BBC and Animal Planet. The executive producer is Sara Ford and the series producer is Miles Barton. The Under the Skin segments were produced by James Brickell in collaboration with the Open University. The score for the main films was composed by David Poore and Ben Salisbury, whilst the music for Under the Skin was written and performed by Tony Briscoe.
The series won the 2009 BAFTA Television Award in the Specialist Factual category. Within David Attenborough's 'Life' series, it is preceded by Life in the Undergrowth (2005).
Filming began in the early part of 2006 and, as with Attenborough's previous series, the production team travelled the world to photograph the required sequences. In May 2006, Attenborough celebrated his 80th birthday in the Galápagos Islands while filming giant tortoises, one of which, called Lonesome George, is thought to be the same age.
Several innovative techniques were used to capture footage. Thermal imaging cameras were used to demonstrate the creatures' variable body temperatures, probe cameras allowed access to underground habitats and even a matchbox-sized one was attached to the shell of a tortoise.
Expert scientists helped the producers to film animal behaviour that is rarely seen. The team 'staked out' radiotagged timber rattlesnakes in order to witness one of them despatching its prey. However, for Attenborough's close encounter with a spitting cobra, a captive snake that was used to being handled was placed in a natural setting and the presenter wore a face visor. Other examples of 'pets' being used were for sequences depicting the lassoing tongue of a chameleon (which had to be filmed at ultra-high speed) and the digestive system of a python (which was enhanced by computer-generated imagery).
Life in Cold Blood is Attenborough's last major series and also represents the final study in his 'Life' series, which comprises 79 programmes. In a 2008 interview, he stated:
The evolutionary history is finished. The endeavour is complete. If you'd asked me 20 years ago whether we'd be attempting such a mammoth task, I'd have said 'Don't be ridiculous'. These programmes tell a particular story and I'm sure others will come along and tell it much better than I did, but I do hope that if people watch it in 50 years' time, it will still have something to say about the world we live in.
However, although Attenborough was 81 years old at the time of the series' broadcast, he continued to assist the BBC Natural History Unit by providing narration for projects such as Nature's Great Events, Life and the forthcoming The Frozen Planet.
Attenborough confirmed on the penultimate edition of Parkinson, broadcast on 16 December 2007, that he did not intend to retire completely and would still make occasional single documentaries, rather than any more series.