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Featured TV on DVD Review: How the Earth was Made: Season Two

February 21st, 2011

How the Earth was Made: Season Two - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

How the Earth was Made: Season Two came out on DVD last June and I reviewed it at the time. Now, nearly eight months later, it is being re-released on Blu-ray, but is the show worth checking out? Is the Blu-ray worth picking up? Perhaps even upgrading to?

To begin, the original descriptions of the 13 episodes, starting with...

  1. Grand Canyon
    A look at the most famous canyon in the world and the puzzle it presents to geologists. How could something that deep, and that wide, be created in what is a very short time in geological terms.
  2. Vesuvius
    The volcano that buried Pompeii. Nothing like that could happen again, right? And if it did, it wouldn't be a threat to the people of Naples, right?
  3. Birth of the Earth
    How did the Earth form from the debris cloud of the early solar system. And how did the early Earth get the features it has now: it's iron core, molten center, crust, oceans, and even life.
  4. Sahara
    The Sahara Desert is the driest and hottest place on Earth, but it was once an ocean. So how did this huge change happen and when? And are there equally dramatic changes ahead for the region?
  5. Yosemite
    How was the Yosemite box valley created? Back in the mid 1800s there were two competing theories about that question and with modern science, we might be able to finally answer it.
  6. The Rockies
    The dramatic symbol of the West. But how were they created and what caused them to have the appearance they have today?
  7. Ring of Fire
    Around the Pacific ocean, the Ring of Fire, is a geological formation that has massive tectonic activity. The majority of all volcanic eruptions and earthquakes happen in this strip, but why?
  8. Everest
    Mount Everest is the largest mountain in the world, and arguably the most famous as well. But how did it form. Also, now that it is here, what effects does it have on the global climate? And what will this do to its future?
  9. Death Valley
    Death Valley is the lowest point in North America. It is also the warmest and the driest. And one of the weirdest. There are rocks that race up hill, but no one has seen them move. What could cause this, and the other characteristics of the area?
  10. Mt. St. Helens
    Before Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1982, it had signs of major activity for a long enough time that many, many scientists came to observe it. At the time, the science of volcanoes and predicting when they would erupt was in its infancy, so this was a very important event. It was also a tragic eruption, as it proved unpredictable in many ways.
  11. Earth's Deadliest Eruption
    250 million years ago, there was a geological event that took place in Siberia, one that lasted a million years and whose impact can still be measured today.
  12. America's Ice Age
    The last Ice Age changed North America in ways that we are still learning about today. Explore some of these effects, and look toward the future of the dwindling glaciers.
  13. America's Gold
    How is gold created? How did it get to Earth? And what geological events helped bring gold to the surface?
After watching the show again, most of my initial reactions are the same. On the positive side, it is very informative and engaging. On the negative side, it tends to be repetitive, with recaps happening before and after each commercial break, while on occasion, the tone can be apocalyptic. I compare similar situations in other educational shows to "Shark Week" and how they are trying to shock as much as educate.

The Extras

There are no extras on the Blu-ray, but they do have subtitles, which is a nice addition.

As for the Blu-ray's video quality, it is nearly impeccable. The show uses a lot of computer generated imagery to explain the geological terms and ideas, as well as computer simulations. These are of course top-notch looking. Most of the live action scenes are nearly as strong, at least the ones shot for the show. There is also a lot of archival footage and stock footage, which is less sharp. For instance, the salt grain experiment in space from Birth of the Earth. On the other hand, this is still an improvement over the DVD. The audio is clear, but otherwise unimpressive. It's a 2.0 track, of course it's not going to have surround sound effects.

The Verdict

There's a scene in America's Gold where we see these bizarre mineral formations in Arizona that would look alien in a Dr Seuss world. It was one of the best things about the DVD, and it was one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to review the Blu-ray. It didn't disappoint. (It's about 24 minutes in, if you want to jump to it.) How the Earth was Made: Season Two is absolutely worth picking up on Blu-ray, if you don't already own it on DVD. If you do, then it's too close to call. Are you happy with your Blu-ray player's ability to up-covert? It is worth spending another $37 -$50 after the initial $29 to $40 purchase? That I can't say.

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