Thursday, October 14, 2010

Earth Story

Earth Story has to be one of the best science documentary series ever made, right up there with Cosmos made 30 years ago as contender for top position. Here is an introductory clip from the first episode. I have watched this programme many times. Alice in Videoland hold a copy that can be borrowed.

For me the presenter Aubrey Manning treats the audience with respect and capably explains in clear terms complex scientific facts that an interested layperson can understand. I would really like to work on a thoughtful presenter led series like this.

The DVD is available on Amazon.

This review by Frank T says it all.

"Decent science documentaries are a thing of the past now, hijacked by special effects monkeys and producers who've had it drummed into them that "science is boring, so keep it light". So this series, from the late 1990s, may prove the last great science series that the BBC made.

Like Attenborough's early documentaries, "Earth Story" is perfectly pitched at the genuinely curious non-specialist viewer. The presenter, Aubrey Manning, is a biologist who, by his own account, wanted to understand more about geology so as to deepen his understanding of his subject. To have him present the series was a stroke of genius: he comes to the subject fresh and with a palpable sense of wonder, yet intent on understanding it in depth.

Manning gradually builds up a picture of how the landscape and biosphere of the earth reached their current state, from volcanism via creation of the mid-ocean ridges to plate tectonics. What is so impressive is the seamless tying together of the history, the epistemology and the practice of geology into a single narrative. There is enough detail to satisfy the more intellectual viewer, yet enough of a bird's-eye view to keep the more casually interested engrossed. Lastly and not least, the film of some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet is quite stunning. What a wise decision it was by the producers to restrict computer effects to animated diagrams illustrating geological processes - it wouldn't happen now.

I can't praise this series highly enough. Whatever you want from a science documentary, this will deliver more. It rocks in every sense."

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