BBC Video // 2010 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // July 10th, 2010
The untold story of history.
The successes of the human race have come as a result of our sheer brilliance, drive to succeed and stellar work ethic, right? Nope. Spend a few hours with geologist Professor Iain Stewart and you might be surprised to learn how things actually happened.
Unlike other nature documentaries that focus on flora and fauna, How the Earth Changed History takes the novel approach of looking at the history of our planet and the development of cultures and civilizations through the lens of some of the planet's most powerful natural processes. Viewers learn how the Earth itself made possible the very events and factors that have allowed humans to either succeed or fail over the course of history.
How the Earth Changed History includes the complete miniseries, spread over two discs as follows:
* Deep Earth
* Human Planet
While it seems somewhat odd at first to be looking at human achievement as a by-product of our natural environment, rather than something that stands on its own merits, the perspective becomes logical very quickly. For example, while many of us recognize Christopher Columbus as a great explorer, where would Columbus have been without the trade winds or Westerlies, prevailing wind currents that made it possible for him to travel such great distances and return home safely? And where would humanity have been if the precious ores that gave us tin, bronze, copper, and other metals hadn't been released from the Earth's core along fault lines to find its way into human hands at the surface? How the Earth Changed History is a fresh look at the unique features our planet provides and how those powerful forces have both built and crushed civilizations throughout human history.
Being Sottish myself and having missed his other documentaries, it was a real delight to pop this release into my player and discover that presenter Iain Stewart was as Scottish as they come. As I was preparing to write this review I came across another review of this release that actually warned people to stay away from it if they don't like accents. Stewart is the perfect guide through this series, clearly excited by the wonders and experiences he's sharing with viewers, while conveying enough experience and knowledge to be a more than credible guide. Ultimately, if you find Stewart's accent makes it hard to follow the flow of the series, there's always the handy-dandy English subtitle track to help you along.
The series is a bit of a disappointment on Blu-ray. It's not that there aren't moments of amazing clarity and stunning depth to be seen in the series, it's just that the highs aren't all that consistent. While the CG images and much of the footage is crisp and bright, there are times in each episode when the picture becomes a bit too soft for my liking and that's a real disappointment, especially for the folks who gave us the stellar Planet Earth. The audio mix fares much better, delivering Ty Unwin's majestic score, Stewart's quirky and energized narration and immersive sound effects in a solid and crystal-clear audio presentation.
The extra features are limited to three short SD segments that alternate between Stewart reminiscing about some of his experiences after the fact and footage from the episodes. While these segments are interesting, they're far too short to add any real value.
While the presentation isn't quite as impressive overall as most of us would have liked, or in my case expected, the content rises above the hurdles with ease, delivering a unique and engaging look at how the powerful forces of our planet keep us in line.
Review content copyright © 2010 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated