Supersized Earth is a three-part BBC documentary presented by Dallas Campbell. In it he travels the world to show us the sheer scale of humanity and the structures and networks we have built. Each episode is based around a broad theme; A Place to Live, The Way We Move, and Food, Fire and Water.
As a well-funded BBC production the show is incredibly smooth and attractive. Sweeping camera shots are reminiscent of a natural history program, a feeling that is reinforced by the portrayal of cities as vast super-organisms. Dallas himself is an engaging host, combining the right amounts of factual knowledge with enough wonder and awe to make us feel that he’s taking the journey with us. It is clear from the start that he suffers somewhat from a fear of heights, and it is hard not to feel a little queasy oneself as you see him abseil down the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa.
Fans of Top Gear will find the races scattered throughout the show familiar. In Rio de Janeiro he demonstrates the speed and practicality of the new cable-car system by racing two local youths on foot.
For number geeks he sprinkles a liberal helping of facts and figures over amazing aerial shots. These are often supported by impressive animations; for example showing side-by-side comparisons of the world’s tallest buildings, or what it would look like if every plane in the sky were together at once. The music and sound are also very sleek, composed for the show by David Schweitzer, who also composed for another excellent BBC show – Inside the Human Body.
Supersized Earth stands as an odd counterview to natural history shows in that it portrays humanity as designers and creators rather than the destroyers of the planet. Whatever your views on deforestation and pollution it is hard not to be impressed by the sheer scale of some of the things that we have built. In one segment Dallas shows us how an entire oil rig, larger than Buckingham Palace, is moved from place to place on the back of a staggeringly huge ship – The Blue Marlin.
As of late 2011 the world’s population has been in excess of seven billion people. Supersized Earth captures the scale of that number very well and shows us how we are able to support that many people using science and technology. The show takes us to all corners of the globe to see things that we really wouldn’t see anywhere else, from ultra-modern skyscrapers aircraft to sewers and slums. All three episodes have now aired, so catch it on iPlayer before it’s gone!
Written by William Letton
William is a Biologist who writes in his spare time. He also likes Skips and watching telly. His favourite Pokemon is Kabutops.