British documentary series Catastrophe will either make you wonder why
you didn’t keep up those fascinating science classes, or remind you why
you were one of the kids who fell asleep in the back of the class. While
the interesting ideas that are hurtled around in Catastrophe hold
significance to our historical and scientific understanding of how our
Earth came into being, such valuable and mind-boggling stories can fly
over the heads of some audience members like lost meteorites as the
execution of the documentary surprisingly lacks a strong sense of
inventiveness or imagination that distinguishes it from every other
science video you may have come across back in high school.
Introduced by Tony Robinson as “the story of our planet’s difficult
birth”, Catastrophe is a highly involved investigation that follows the
process of evolution on Earth as a result of violent and fatalistic
catastrophes of chance. Over the course of five feature length episodes,
we follow a clock of our Earth’s history that continues to tick across
billions of years that cover global change caused by outer space
collisions, ice ages, volcanic explosions, and other critical impacts
that have brought us close to extinction, but also contributed to the
blossoming of life.
The ideas that Catastrophe investigate are larger than life, and in that
respect, it deals with interesting scientific discoveries and ways of
understanding our existence. The documentary series, however, fails to
be wide-reaching in its appeal, relying too heavily on these big ideas
and failing to make greater leaps towards being creative in how they
present the bulk of information. While the series is necessarily reliant
on CGI to illustrate the cataclysmic changes that took place on Earth’s
surface and the prehistoric creatures that roamed it before we did,
Catastrophe lacks a distinctive or original take on these stories,
making the episodes feel a little repetitive even though each of them
deal with different topics and times.
For instance, Tony Robinson has the enthusiasm and passion of a science
teacher, hell bent on making you appreciate some of the mind-bending
studies that have been made in this field of astronomical proportions.
But as his narration falls into a predictable pattern and style,
Catastrophe turns unengaging as even the 3D imagery and operatic music
fail to hold our attention– making it difficult for those who may be new
to such ideas of evolution to sustain their interest in the series.
While science geeks and curious documentary fanatics may enjoy
Catastrophe for the insightful interviews and CGI renditions of our
Earth’s violent beginnings, Catastrophe does nothing to engage those who
may have spent most of their science lessons doodling on the desk. Had
the series taken a more original approach, or at least a more accessible
angle that moved away from a feeling of repetition and predictable
visual constructions, it could have converted even the most
scientifically uninterested viewer into a mad scientist.