Earth: The Biography Review
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When it comes to nature documentaries, it seems that no one can top the BBC. Lately, they’ve produced some spectacular nature series—like The Blue Planet and Planet Earth. So when I saw that the BBC-produced Earth: The Biography was coming to DVD, I expected more of the same.

This five-episode, two-disc series, hosted by Dr. Iain Stewart, discusses the natural factors that have shaped our planet: volcanoes, atmosphere, ice, and oceans. In each episode, Stewart travels the world, studying caves, glaciers, ocean currents, and more to show viewers how the planet has changed throughout its history—and how those changes have supported life on Earth.

Of the five episodes, though, the most interesting one is the final episode, called “Rare Planet.” It shows what makes Earth different from the other planets in the solar system—and how even the subtlest of differences make our planet capable of sustaining life.

Throughout the series, Stewart presents a number of theories and observations about the formation and development of the planet—many of which I’d never heard before. Whatever your beliefs regarding Earth’s creation and evolution, you’ll find that most of these theories are really quite fascinating—thanks to Stewart’s eye-opening evidence, as well as the CGI illustrations that help to bring everything to life. At times, however, some of the theories do feel a bit contrived. I’m quite sure that, even within the scientific community, many of these observations and interpretations are still up for debate—yet Stewart occasionally presents disputable theories as fact, without providing evidence to back them up.

So, sure, the theories and explanations are often just highly educated guesses. After all, no one was around at the time to document how, exactly, the planet came into being. And I’m sure that most of us could sit around for hours, debating the possibilities. But the series still has an awe-inspiring effect. Even if you don’t buy into all of the details, you’ll still find that it’s breathtaking stuff.

But how does it stand up to Planet Earth? That’s a tricky comparison—apples and oranges, really. Since Planet Earth focuses on the creatures that inhabit the planet, it’s a bit more lively and entertaining. While Earth is still somewhat entertaining, its focus is on geology—not on the planet’s inhabitants—so it feels more like a nature documentary that you’d watch in school. And, at times, it does drag a bit.

As for the host, Stewart may be younger and more adventurous than the BBC’s frequent narrator, David Attenborough—but he’s not nearly as polished. With his tendency toward melodrama (mixed with his heavy Scottish accent), he sometimes makes the series feel a bit silly. But, at the same time, he also adds energy and life to the scientific facts and figures.

So, as a whole, Earth: The Biography may not be quite as stunning or refined as some of the BBC’s other documentary series, but it’s still an interesting series that’s sure to teach you a thing or two about our planet and the challenges it faces.

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