Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nat Geo Specials: And Then There Were Two

Tonight, I presume, you all are going to tune in and check out National Geographic's Morphed series. It was truly a blast to watch!

But, what are your plans for this Tuesday? Because the fun's only just begun, and let me tell you, they saved the best for last.

On Feb 10th starting at 9 PM, the National Geographic Channel premiers two other Darwin special features, and they are AMAZING.

Technically, I watched the second one first, so I'm going to review it that way. You'll just have to deal.

At 10 PM on Tuesday you should tune in to catch Monster Fish of the Congo. It tracks a team of scientists and adventurers as they seek to understand how the lower Congo River can have such unfathomable diversity. And, of course, they're hunting a truly monstrous fish - the Goliath Tiger Fish. So:

Visuals: A-
Science: A
Overall: A

What's to totally cool about this episode of Explorer is that you really get to see science in action. They send a team of kayaks with high-tech equipment down killer rapids to chart the currents and topography of the riverbed. They catch a lot of fish. And, of course, they catch a few that are sure to give me nightmares. I mean, I'd never even heard of a tiger fish before this program - and YIKES! That's enough to keep me from ever swimming in that river. Just look at the teeth! Even thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.

And, on top of awesome panoramic scenes of a fearsome river, they do a great job with the actual science. The speciation going on in that river, to use a quote from the show, is "evolution on steroids". The program not only explains how evolution works beautifully (no "have to adapt" or "fixing problems" here), it shows the thought process behind the research, too. They explain how finding different currents or habitats that might isolate fish would lead to diversity, and how, if genetics don't show differences between the monstrous tiger fish, they are the only ones to truly rule the rapids. All and all, it's fun and freaky, and definitely worth checking out.

Last, but definitely not least, is their truly Darwin centric program: Darwin's Secret Notebooks.

Let me start by saying this: Just watch it. I don't care what you have planned. Tape it. DVR it. Watch it.

That said,

Visuals: A+
Science: A+
Storytelling: A+
Overall: A+++++

I feel lucky to have this on DVD, because if I didn't, I'd have to go and buy it. Bravo, National Geographic - BRAVO. This special is one of the best-spent hours of my life. It follows Darwin's "forgotten story". The HMS Beagle only spent 5 weeks in the Galapagos, and it seems like that is all you hear about how Darwin formed his theories. That, and something about some finches.

This program reveals the full story of Darwin's travels in an elegant, masterful tale that is interesting and informative. You can really see the steps in Darwin's head that led to Evolution, from the rain forests of Brazil that became "the cathedral of Darwin's religion" to the atolls of the Pacific where he "pondered the question that would change the world". It artfully weaves Darwin's own words with the sights, sounds, and science of the places he visited. You get fully immersed in the amazing voyage that Darwin took, both physically and mentally. If you watch no other Darwin special, be sure to see this one - it's truly a treat.

And, with that, I guess I'm done for now at my brief stint as a TV reviewer... unless Animal Planet or Discovery Channel has someone out there following the science scene looking for a good blogger to preview some new Dave Salmoni special or something... HINT HINT*.

Be sure, too, to check out the discussion at 7 PM tonight at the National Gepgraphic Blog all about evolution and its importance in our lives today!

*I could meet him in person for an interview, too, if you insist... I mean, I guess I could sacrifice my time just this once...


liliannattel said...

Thanks--I hope it's out on DVD so we can rent it as we don't have cable. I'm going to look for it.

Allie said...

I tagged you in my Science Lover's Book Meme because I would love to see what books you would recommend!