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Case Number 21910: Small Claims Court

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Earth Collection

Discovery Channel // 1999 // 344 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // July 31st, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Kent Dixon cherishes his Earth, Wind and Fire collection.

The Charge

A ring-side seat to the amazing story of the shaping and synergy of our world.

The Case

With some of the most famous documentaries and series to its name, Discovery Channel all but dominates documentary programming, certainly in the Unites States, if not the world. The quality of their programming generally sets the standard by which other productions are measured, and certainly series like Planet Earth have proven that Discovery can deliver content that is both informative and breathtaking.

This spring, Discovery released Earth Collection, gathering an assortment of shorter features together for the first time, spread across two discs as follows:

Disc One
• Inside Planet Earth
Facing intense heat and pressure and a harsh atmosphere beneath the surface, it's fascinating to learn scientists have found a greater abundance of life beneath the earth's crust than can be found on the surface.

• What Lies Below
An exploration team that includes a cartographer, a biologist and a geologist travel to Iceland, braving extreme conditions and temperatures to explore some of the most beautiful cave locations in the world.

• The Sun
Here we glow again (sorry). This episode looks at how solar radiation, sun spots and many other features of the sun act to either help or potentially hurt our planet.

• Fearless Planet—"Earth Story"
Travel back in time about four billion years to when the earth was first formed to see the processes and forces that created our planet as we know it today.

Disc Two
• Sunrise Earth—"Edge of the Atlantic"
Unless you're a big fan of the ocean and the sounds of the surf, this 52-minute look at waves hitting the shores of Cape Cod, with occasional brief text-only factoids, will likely bore you to tears.

• If We Had No Moon
Narrated by classically-trained actor Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation), this episode explores the scientific theory that a proto planet called Orpheus collides with a moon-less earth in our ancient past, throwing debris that eventually formed the moon into orbit. Not only is the moon our shield and protector, but it regulates our tidal forces and climate and keeps earth on its delicately-balanced axis. Scientists are also considering more and more how the moon will be a valuable stepping off point for further space exploration.

• Faces of Earth—"Building the Planet"
Appearing as a random episode from a lager series, "Building the Planet" revisits familiar topics such as earth's magnetic field, the abundance and development of liquid water, and the development of early life. It also shows how technology is allowing scientists to see amazing new views of what lies beneath the surface.

There's some fascinating science here to be sure, but much of it feels too familiar and no one episode seems to flow out of or into any other. Granted, you may not necessarily sit down to watch all seven episodes back-to-back, or even in a few extended sittings like I did, but you may still wind up leaving the experience unsatisfied.

Each of the episodes included with Earth Collection follow a similar format to the Discovery Channel sister release Dinosaur Collection: on-screen experts talk, CGI dazzles and represents, narrators expound, and here and there, you may find you learn something new. Overall though, when considered as a whole, this collection feels thrown together and jumbled, with no logical overarching theme to guide the viewer.

Viewers will also find a bit of a hodge-podge with the A/V presentation on this release. The 2.0 audio presentation suits the overall documentary style, but a more dynamic mix might have been nice, especially to accompany some of the more grand CG vistas. The release includes episodes in both anamorphic and non-anamorphic widescreen, which may prove annoying to some viewers, but it's not a complete deal-breaker. There are no extra features of any kind.

With History Channel pulling out most of the stops on their space science series The Universe, it's difficult to recommend Discovery's Earth Collection as much more than a rental. The lack of coherence or focus will likely serve to confuse casual viewers and annoy more experienced ones.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 68

Perp Profile

Studio: Discovery Channel
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 344 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Historical
• Science and Nature
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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