Judge Dylan Charles always cleans up his trail of geological mysteries before he leaves a room.
Our reviews of How The Earth Was Made (published April 16th, 2008), How The Earth Was Made: The Complete Season One (Blu-Ray) (published December 11th, 2010), How The Earth Was Made: The Complete Season Two (published June 19th, 2010), and The Universe: Collector's Set (published November 5th, 2008) are also available.
"Earth, a 4.5 billion-year-old planet, still evolving, as continents shift and clash, volcanoes erupt, and glaciers grow and recede, The earth's crust is carved in numerous and fascinating ways, leaving a trail of geological mysteries behind."
I took a class on Geology in college, which makes me something of an expert. I know all about plate tectonics and volcanoes and dirt, so I expected to just yawn my way through How the Earth Was Made as they just covered the basics. Instead, How the Earth Was Made still had some tricks up its sleeves, hitting me with some facts that I didn't see coming.
Facts of the Case
How the Earth Was Made picks a spot on the planet (Yellowstone, Manhattan, or Loch Ness, for example) and then explains how it was formed, and then uses that explanation to draw greater conclusions about how the whole Earth was formed.
There are thirteen hour-long episodes in total, covering a good deal of the Earth's surface in the process:
Shows like How the Earth Was Made have a fine line to tread: they can either go the nerdy science route, where only three people know what's being said and only one of them cares, or they can dumb it down to the point where everyone knows what's being said, but they're not saying anything worth listening to at this point. "Did you know that sometimes the Earth shakes?"
How the Earth Was Made manages to walk this line for the whole season. It never gets too science nerdy and never stops being interesting—except when it talks about plate tectonics for the thirteenth time.
They keep up the interest levels by bouncing around to different points of interest, including areas that I never knew were geologically interesting. They hit the usual suspects: the Marianas Trench and the San Andreas Fault are both there, but they also include Loch Ness and Manhattan Island. Not only do they talk about the bare facts about how these features were created (Manhattan used to be part of a mountain range! Loch Ness was partly formed by rocks from the Catskills Mountains!), but also how scientists use these facts to figure out how the Earth was created. For instance, since half of Loch Ness contains rocks from the Catskills Mountains, Scotland must once have been joined to North America at some point.
How the Earth Was Made always manages to keep the explanation palatable to laymen by summarizing what was said every 15 minutes or so. While the summaries can get needlessly repetitive at times, I'm sure they were more useful when there were actual commercials breaking the flow.
They also have a tendency to reuse graphics. There are only so many times I need to see the same asteroid hitting the Earth. For the most part though, the graphics do their job: colorfully explaining what's being said without being too noisy or obtrusive. The fact that they borrowed scenes from Walking with Dinosaurs was also awesome, if only because anything dinosaurian is automatically cool.
How the Earth Was Made does have the occasional tendency to get a little hysterical and overly excited at times, which is to be expected from a History Channel production. They just can't talk about super-volcanoes without mentioning five or six times that we're all doomed and they're going to explode at any minute! Maybe even right now! On the other hand, they tastefully mention the Loch Ness monster and then dismiss it with a backhand slap at the end of the episode, which showed remarkable restraint for a channel that produces UFO Hunters.
Everything looks clear and sharp and sounds good. There are no extras.
How the Earth Was Made is a well-made and pretty show that manages to be both informative and entertaining. If you're even the slightest bit interested about the Earth and how it was formed, then this is a must-have.
How the Earth Was Made is guilty of making Geology cool and hip. Not that it needed help.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
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