26 May 2009

Partial Link

Darwinius T-shirtI watched the first half of The Link, the documentary made about the fossil primate Darwinius (Ida). I didn't watch the whole thing, because, well, there were on things on TV I wanted to watch, and knowing basic cable, I fully expected it to be on several times more this week. I'll probably see the second half on Friday.

There’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that the science is actually pretty good. They lay out the various questions and how they go about trying to answer them in a fairly cogent way. There are some good explanations of the regional geology that I certainly didn’t know. The claims are not too over the top, although you do get slightly overblown sentences like, “Only one person in the world had the expertise to interpret these scans...”

The bad news is that the documentary doesn’t stand out from any other documentary. There are the talking heads, the same few computer animations repeated over and over, and the anonymous narrator, who sounds like every other narrator of science documentaries. It’s as though all of these documentary filmmakers are perpetually stuck in one gear.

Jørn Hurum, who’s at the center of all this, said in an interview:

If we really want kids to get involved with exciting scientific findings, no matter what kind of field, we really need to start [thinking] about reaching people other than [our] fellow scientists.

And I appreciate the sentiment, I really do. Heck, it’s one reason why I blog. But I don’t know that a slow moving documentary that doesn’t look any different from a dozen others is the way to go.

Probably more after I see the second half of this on Friday.

Even while watching this documentary about the most important find in 47 million years, the History Channel is running ads for the next show that promises to be “the television even of the summer.” But wait, isn’t this summer? Wasn’t this supposed to be the untoppable epic event that would change everything?

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