"Great Transformations" and "Extinction" with "Evolution 2"
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To be clear, this second DVD in the PBS "Evolution" series has the second and third episodes. The "Evolution" series is not only about the profound impact the evolutionary process has had on our understanding of the world around us but also about the various versions of the controversial theory that have been expounded by scientists for over a century. The series basically focuses on five key concepts regarding evolution, sandwiched between episodes that constitute a dramatic introduction and a controversial coda.After the dramatized look at the life of Charles Darwin and "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," the series turns to some key issues with regards to evolution. Episode 2, "Great Transformations" explores the evolutionary changes that caused the incredible diversity of animal life that exists on earth. The focus is on the development of the four-limbed body plan, which is explained in the context of how animal life moved from water to land and eventually to human beings, thereby answering the key question of why are human connected to all life.In contrast, Episode 3, "Extinction!" represents the flip side of evolutionary transformations, explaining the how and why behind the fact that 99.9 percent of all species that have ever lived on earth are now extinct. This leads to the provocative question as to whether human beings are going to cause the next mass extinction on the planet. You have probably seen some of Hollywood's speculations on how human beings are going to bring about the end of the world as we know it, so you might as well give a more scientific view on the possibilities. The key thing here is that I am someone who never even took Biology in high school (Ecology and Life Through the Microscope if you must know) and everybody knows at the end of Trivial Pursuit to ask me a Science & Nature question. But I could fully understand and appreciate the science being explained in these two episodes. In fact, taking the macro view of science, as opposed to dissecting some poor animal, actually appeals to me in terms of knowledge worth pursuing."
What triggered Earth's incredible biodiversity & why isn't t
Stephen Pletko | London, Ontario, Canada | 06/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Great Transformations" and "Extinction!" are parts two and three respectively (on one disc) in the seven-part "Evolution" series. While not absolutely necessary I strongly recommend viewing part one in this series entitled "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" (on a separate disc) first before viewing these two parts.
In a nutshell, the second part "Great Transformations" (6 scenes, 55 min) discusses the evolutionary changes that are responsible for our planet's great biodiversity that we observe today. However, this brief statement does not do this interesting program justice. Here are the relevant parts of its "prologue" or introduction as said by the narrator, actor Liam Neeson:
"We can recognize the connection to our closest relatives but when we know how to look we can also find it in other mammals: birds, reptiles, fish, even insects. The deeper we dig, the farther back we go, the more we see that everything alive has evolved from a single starting point. The tree of life has been branching for four billion years. And we can now follow its branches back to their roots...In the history of our planet, a few great transformations [that is, big evolutionary steps] have opened the door for new forms of life and new types of life. Fifty million years ago land mammals evolved into sea creatures. Long before that, fish colonized land. At the dawn of civilization, the first [four-limbed] bodies appeared."
The third part entitled "Extinction!" (8 scenes, 55 min) deals with the antithesis of the second part. It explores why up to about 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth are now no longer in existence. Here is some of this program's prologue:
"In the ongoing drama of evolution, species come and go. They live, they compete, they die out...on average, a species dies out after four million years of existence. It could take less time, it could take much more. But its all part of the normal process of extinction--always there, always happening...the extinction of species that can't adapt or compete creates opportunities for new species, new forms of life, in an endless cycle. So evolution and extinction are in balance, but what happens when a planet-wide catastrophe kills off many species in a great mass extinction?
Brief comments are made throughout both parts or programs by university professors, geologists, evolutionary biologists, etc. There is also excellent photography and animation throughout.
These programs alone sold on this single disc are for those who do not want to shell out the $90.00 (the price at the time this review was written) for the entire boxed set "Evolution" seven-part series.
Finally, the DVD itself (the one released in 2002) is perfect in picture and sound quality. There are no extras.
In conclusion, if you want to understand two intriguing facets of evolution--namely, transformations or large evolutionary steps and extinction, this is the film to see!!!
(2001; 1 hr, 50 min; made for TV ("Nova"); wide screen; 14 scenes; closed captioned)