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Featured Blu-ray Review: Earth and Space

December 16th, 2010

Earth and Space - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Earth and Space is a six disc box set from History Channel that is simply the first season of How the Earth Was Made and the first season of The Universe. I've reviewed both shows in the past, but not exactly this set. So what's new to review and what's a repeat?

How the Earth Was Made

The episodes featured on this three-disc portion of the Blu-ray starts with The San Andreas Fault, which is about the famous fault line that runs along the coast of California. It details the history of earthquakes in the area and how scientists' understanding of the causes evolved over time. The Deepest Place on Earth is about the Marianas Trench, which at its deepest is seven miles below the service of the ocean. Krakatoa is arguably the most famous volcanic eruption from history (Vesuvius is the other main contender) and with the Anak Krakatau, a.k.a., Son of Krakatoa becoming very active, understanding what caused the eruption and how we can predict another is all the more important. Loch Ness is much better than I expected, because when I think of Loch Ness, I think of the non-existent monster, so all of the strange geological features of the area was completely new to me. Also, I like how definitive they were when it came to the non-existence of Nessy, usually shows like this tend to hedge their bets to avoid offending anyone. Again, New York was a pleasant surprise, because when I think of New York, I think of the buildings, and not the geological features. However, the area is actually very interesting in a geological sense.

Over on disc two things start with Driest Place on Earth, which is the Atacama Desert in Chile. It's not the hottest place on Earth, but there's something unique about it that makes it very, very dry, and it has been that way for thousands of years, maybe a lot longer. The Great Lakes are the largest lake system in the world, and something that big doesn'y form without incredible forced involved. Yellowstone was the first national part, but its geological nature is what makes it so special. There are more geysers in Yellowstone than in the rest of the world combined. But what is the cause of the area's uniqueness? Unlike the rest of the season, Tsunami doesn't deal with the geological forces that created lasting changes, but instead the geological forces that can cause momentary, and devastating effects.

The final disc starts with Asteroids, which I almost wish was the last episode, as it would blend so well into the next part. Iceland is the land of fire and ice. The ice part is eay to explain, since it is so far north, but why are there so many volcanoes there? Hawaii is an island chain formed by volcanoes, but not just any volcanoes, they are the biggest on Earth. The Alps are so famous that this episode needs no introduction, but the mountain range is also one of the most studied in the world, which means there's a lot of information that was first learned here.

The Universe

This portion of the DVD has a very similar format to the previous one; i.e., there are 13 episodes, each dealing with a specific astrological subject. Things start with Secrets of the Sun, which was part of the previous review, as was Mars: The Red Planet, The End of the Earth: Deep Space Threats to our Planet, Jupiter: the Giant Planet, and The Moon all from disc one. As well as Spaceship Earth, The Inner Planets: Mercury and Venus, Saturn: Lord of the Rings, Alien Galaxies, and Life and Death of a Star from disc two.

Disc three, on the other hand, was new to me. These episodes starts with The Outer Planets, which does deal with the controversy over Pluto, as well as Neptune and Uranus. The Most Dangerous Place in the Universe is about the dangers of interstellar space from black holes to quasars to other, more unique objects. Search for ET explores the possibility there is life in the universe, as well as in our own solar system. Finally, there's Beyond the Big Bang, which looks at our understanding of the universe, as it has evolved over the years. An excellent double-length episode and a great way to end the six-disc Blu-ray release.

The Extras

Beyond the Big Bang is not technically part of The Universe, so it can be seen as an extra.

As for the Blu-ray, there are some issues with the technical presentation. Firstly, not all of the footage was shot in High Definition, so while some of the computer simulations look fantastic, some of the archival news footage, for example, looks its age. Also, its audio mix is about as uncomplicated as you will find.

The Verdict

Earth and Space is an excellent educational show, with a few problems that I mentioned in the previous reviews. It tends to be very repetitive with facts summed up after every commercial break. Also, they must have explained plate tectonics in practically every episode of Earth and I lost count the number of times I heard the term "Subduction". Then again, I will never forget what that term means. Finally, I thought some of the science was sensationalized a bit too much. I previously compared it to "Shark Week" and I stand by that comparison. That said, those problems are minor and wholeheartedly recommend the Blu-ray. It's an excellent value for the money.

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