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Case Number 11306: Small Claims Court

Buy Galapagos at Amazon


BBC Video // 2006 // 150 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // May 2nd, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Ian Visser has been waiting 3 years to use the term "archipelago" in a review. Yes!

Editor's Note

Our review of The BBC High Definition Natural History Colleciton (Blu-ray), published October 9th, 2008, is also available.

The Charge

The islands that changed the world.

The Case

Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador is an amazing and unique place. Made up of 13 large volcanic islands (and dozens of smaller ones), the Galapagos Islands are famed for their amazing variety of wildlife and inspiring a world-changing tome by Charles Darwin. Once considered "hellish" by seamen who encountered their lively volcanic activity, the islands are now recognized as a wonder of the natural world.

Galapagos is a collection of three BBC shows broadcast on the National Geographic Channel in 2006. Narrated by actress Tilda Swinton (Constantine), the series provides a view of the famous islands that manages to be both wide-ranging and intimate at the same time.

The three episodes included on the DVD are:

• "Born of Fire"
Tracing the origins of the archipelago, Born chronicles the natural elements which prompted their creation. Also examined are the origins of several species of the islands, and the unique relationships with each other many of the animals rely on for survival.

• "Islands That Changed the World"
Exploring man's history on the islands, from its earliest visitors to the arrival of Darwin and his famous ship, the Beagle, Islands also details much of the island's vegetation and flora, as well as man's exploitation of this bounty. This segment uses modern re-creations of people and events, a technique that it is not intrusive or overused.

• "Forces of Change"
This episode highlights the future changes that the islands may undergo. While briefly addressing climate change, the main focus here is on the booming human population of the islands (growing from 3,000 people to 30,000 over the past 50 years), and the impact this growth is having on the natural environment.

From satellite photography to a close-up of a sand crab, the images truly impress. There are instances of jaw-dropping beauty, from molten lava flows to the antics of sea lions and blue-footed boobies. Not overly concerned with dates and figures, Galapagos concentrates mainly on the island's origins and creatures, detailing their inter-dependence and evolution. It's amazing to watch how each island has evolved, morphing from lava rock to life-rich environment, and eventually returning to rock once again. As a result, the viewer grasps how unique these islands really are, and how life on the Galapagos is at once both harsh and beautiful.

Galapagos contains no special features, although this is not unusual for a television series. In addition, there is a bit of repetitive information across the three episodes, as the first few minutes of each are used to recap the previous segments. The other shortcoming concerns the Forces of Change segment which deals with the human impact on the islands. Viewers get no reference as to where people live in relation to the other islands, or the amount of physical encroachment involved, dulling the impact of its point. Overall, however, these are minor issues that do not detract from the power of the presentation.

On the technical front, this is a great effort. Shot on hi-definition video, the image looks stunning and is coupled with amazing cinematography. The 2.0 Dolby Digital audio is solid, mixing narration and natural sound in a balanced and impressive way. Finally, BBC Video has done a real service to viewers by including English sub-titles.

For anyone with an interest in the Galapagos Islands, Galapagos is a treasure trove of information and experiences. BBC Video is to be commended for allowing us a chance to witness the beauty this natural wonder has to offer.

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: BBC Video
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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