TV Review: Planet Earth
Discovery Channel, check local listings
“5 years in the making”, “over 2000 days of shooting”, “202 locations”, and so begins the most audacious nature documentary ever created. In case you’ve missed the hype, The Discovery Channel launched the first 3 of an eventual 11 one hour episodes this weekend of an ambitious project called simply “Planet Earth”.
Now I’m not sure how you usually feel about nature shows, but the idea behind Planet Earth is to take the typical nature show and “Spinal Tap” it all the way to 11. You get the sense that the creators of this series wanted it to be nature’s highlight reel, to take the most incredible aspects of the world around us and form them into some sort of nature doc on steroids. Does it work? The simple answer is yes. After watching the first three episodes in one sitting last night, I have to admit I’m hooked.
One thing that’s evident off the bat is that there is a real arrogance to these shows. Narrator Sigourney Weaver mentions every five minutes that this is the first time such and such has ever been recorded. These constant reminders can become a little weird especially when she mentions that they are filming Snow Leopards in the wild for the first time in history, and then 5 seconds later tells us that this Snow Leopard hunt is the first time an entire Snow Leopard hunt has ever been caught on camera. Ya’ think? Yet somehow, like Babe Ruth calling his shot, they pull it off. Honestly, I’ve yet to find the perfect adjective to describe the visuals in this series. Stunning? Astounding? Incredible? Triple yes and more. Filmed with high speed HD cameras there are scenes peppered throughout each episode that truly must be seen to be believed. At our house we probably watched the Great White attacking the Sea Lion at least 5 times, and each time we were more amazed at what we were seeing. I know I’m laying on the hyperbole pretty thick here, but seriously, my HD plasma now knows what it was born to do. Speaking of which, I’m sure that these shows in standard def are pretty amazing, but if you know someone who has an HD set you need to see at least one of these episodes in HD. Offer to house-sit, baby-sit, dog-sit, or just invite yourself over to sit, whatever it takes it will be worth it.
Ok, we get it, it looks real purty, but what is it about, what does it say? Good point.
The very first sentence of the very first episode sums up the major philosophical flaw of the series. “Earth is the lucky planet, not too near the sun, not too far”. Ah yes, it was luck that put us here. It was chance that landed us in the perfect spot for life to flourish. Now I know it’s not like this is a new tension between scientists and theologians, but to hear it so blatantly presented right up front certainlycaught my ear. I’ve never understood the desire to take a creator out of the equation. I mean isn’t it more fulfilling to believe that someone made this for us, then that it happened from some random acts of chanceness. Even setting aside the emotional aspect of it, since truth isn’t always about what sounds better, what are the facts? Well, considering both a creator God and creation by chance are unprovable, outlandish claims which makes more sense to you? That everything around us just happened or that someone put it together on purpose, with purpose. I mean, seriously, do you think while sitting in my living room watching “PlanetEarth ” that I even once thought to myself, “This show is amazing, I bet it just happened”? Even though I don’t know all the ins and outs of how and who made this show, I can assure you, someone did make it. The truth is that while watching the incredible scenes of the world around us, I’ve never been more convinced that there is a designer behind it all, and one with a great sense of humor at that.
The remaining episodes of “Planet Earth” will air two at a time for the next four weeks. Even if you miss the Sunday debuts, you can be assured that they will air around the clock, in that wonderful, “it’s on cable, so you can catch it anytime.” sort of way. I would highly recommend doing a quick search on your DVR and setting every episode to record, even knowing the producers don’t quite have the same world view as you. In the end, it doesn’t bother me one bit that the creators of this series likely see our planet as a miracle of chance, becauseinadvertently in this gorgeous series they capture the truth of the awe of creation and the love and care of the creator who designed it.