The BBC is a very respected documentary producer having given us the extraordinary Blue Planet and Planet Earth among many others. They have released a new entrant in the Earth series in the form of Earth – The Biography.
Unlike Planet Earth which looks at wildlife and ecosystems, Earth – The Biography looks at the massive and devastatingly beautiful geological forces that have shaped our planet. The Biography is split into five episodes spanned over two DVDs giving us a look at the various aspects of the planets forces from volcanoes to glaciers to the endless oceans.
Hosted by the very talented and passionate Dr. Iain Stewart, a Scottish geologist, the series is an incredibly dynamic and fast paced look at our world and the amazing forces that shape it. Dr. Stewart takes us around the globe and looks into the maw of volcanoes and examines the destructive forces of water and glaciers. One of the most recurring themes in the series is the observation that humans do not really have a lasting impact on this resilient planet we call Earth.
This theme can be very controversial to environmentalists, but looking at the facts of the world’s history in this biography you simply cannot deny what they are saying. Demonstrations of what a glacier can do to an environment, how the Earth’s crust is constantly forming new mountains or how rain and water erase traces of human life are poignant and eye-opening.
Dr. Stewart is a key part to this documentary series and as much a star of the show as the Earth itself is. He is a gifted speaker and obviously an expert in the geological field as he travels all over Earth examining the wondrous facets of our planet. He is constantly in the thick of the action whether it be crawling under a glacier or standing at the lip of an active volcano. His narration and constant presence enhance the feel of the series instead of halting the flow as is possible with other narrators.
The cinematography is really stunning in this series, as we have come to expect from the BBC. High-Definition cameras were used to great effect to capture the stark contrasts in color and sweeping environments featured in the documentary. The quality on this DVD release is generally amazing with some minor flaws that pull it down slightly.
Generally when they use time-lapse to show changes the imaging is blurry and slightly muddled. Also the CG used in certain sequences, while not horrible, is out of place next to the amazing vistas we are presented with. Overall the presentation is excellent and the documentary has plenty of awe inspiring scenes.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is a fairly understated mix. This is a very discussion oriented experience with Dr. Stewart narrating nearly the entire length of the series. The dialogue is clearly understood and while there are relatively few wow moments as far as audio is concerned the presentation is perfectly suited to the series.
The Final Word
Earth – The Biography is a really great experience and is quite different from BBC's phenomenal Planet Earth. It is not the sweeping epic that Planet Earth was, but that is not a bad thing. The Biography is a deep and exciting view at the power and resilience of our planet and a sobering look at how minute we are in relation to the history of the Earth itself.