Thanks to this show, Judge Dawn Hunt's family will never travel to Australia.
Five deadly forces, four turbulent episodes, one powerful surge of entertainment.
Welcome to the ocean's dark side.
Facts of the Case
Let's start by breaking down the two discs of Underwater Universe: Season One.
• "Predators of the Deep"—During this outing we learn about the five most dangerous marine predators: the killer whale, the Humboldt squid, the great white shark, the saltwater crocodile and the box jellyfish.
• "Fatal Pressure"—Learning in this episode revolves around a little known area of danger in the water: pressure, specifically the five pressure zones of the ocean.
• "Tides and Currents of Death"—The attempt is made to explain how the ocean's currents and tides are created and what impact they have, on not only humanity, but all of life on earth.
Underwater Universe was a limited run series of four episodes. In each, a facet of the ocean is described with loads of science and research to supplement what would otherwise be just a fluff piece. But this is anything but fluff, striving instead to make the point that we don't understand the ocean. And not just us, the casual viewers, but the scientists as well. It's at once completely terrifying and humbling to begin to grasp that the ocean is responsible for life on this planet as we know it and we can really mess that up, to the point where we wipe out it out. We know so very little about the ocean and yet it is keeping us alive.
This was produced just months before the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. As such, it's even more affecting hearing about devastation the ocean can wreak and the continued lack of understanding as to the causes. We don't have warning systems we need in place and we won't have them until we learn more.
The most compelling aspect of Underwater Universe is the miracles. Through practical re-creation or computer animation, amazing survival stories are showcased. And in every instance there is a first-hand account. There's no reliance on hearsay, rather the survivor's own words are used to tell their story and as such are inspirational and compelling. In "Predators of the Deep" we meet a young girl who survived being stung by more box jellyfish tentacles than any other person on record. In "Tides and Currents of Death" a man watches his two children get swept out in the Kauai riptide. He then jumps in after them and believes he will die in his attempt to get to them. In "Shockwaves" a survivor of the 2009 Samoan tsunami shares before and after photos of her dwelling, describing the terror of that day.
Underwater Universe is a great educational show, bringing up scientific theories and principles while presenting them in an eye-catching way. For example, I would have loved to first learn about the sine of a wave by visually seeing it represented as it was demonstrated here. The show strives to make the viewer aware of just how little we really understand about the ocean, and consequently how deadly one of the most beautiful features of our planet is. It succeeds in this in spades.
The special feature is a 2009 feature-length (83 min) episode of the series showcasing the seven deadliest seas known to man. While it was really interesting, again most notabe the survivor's stories, I could also see how the decision to scale back the focus and instead make each episode merely an hour long was reached.
While the video format is nothing special, the attention given to the quality of the computer graphics (with one glaring exception) must be noted and applauded. There were times while watching the show the people I was with believed we were seeing actual news footage or someone's home movie, when in reality it was merely a re-creation. And the most impressive thing about the graphics is that they do not overshadow the real footage at all. Instead they blend to tell the story.
The glaring exception is the factoids. Little nuggets of wisdom pop up on the screen but in an effort to diminish their screen presence they are displayed in a ridiculously tiny font. Trying to read them got real old real quick, and I can tell you I was the only one still trying after the first episode.
Dolby 2.0 audio stream has never bothered me before this viewing, and that is in direct correlation to the number of people watching this with me. When people were gasping over the horror or commenting on the forgotten science, you couldn't hear the television. I had to watch Underwater Universe by myself to really hear everything.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Underwater Universe portrays an unflinching look at death. There are images of people's last moments alive and dead bodies are also shown, albeit briefly. If you have a sensitivity to violence or would be watching this with younger viewers, I would urge caution.
If you want to learn more about the ocean's dangers, look no further. This is a highly informational show which will only add to your knowledge base.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
• Bonus Episode
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