Sunday, 14 August 2016

Forces of Nature

Brian Cox has a real fascination with the science behind our world and beyond, and this never fails to come through in his documentaries. ‘Forces of Nature’, his latest programme, looks at the beauty within the world and the simple forces that cause us to happen.

As always, we’re treated to an array of stunning visual imagery throughout all four episodes – something that has started to become expected within documentaries, yet still never ceases to amaze. Slow motion and macro shots are used to great advantage, illustrating these natural wonders from around the world that many viewers may never get the chance to see in real life. For the more hypothetical and explanatory images, the documentary has utilised highly realistic and captivating CGI imagery, such as the view of the burning moon from a prehistoric Earth – so realistic, in fact, that they could potentially confuse teenage viewers as to what is real or not. Making the viewers aware of CGI imagery could have helped, but I didn’t feel that this was detrimental to the series as a whole.

I found Brian Cox’s visual explanations very useful – a lot of the information could have been quite hard to digest with just words, but he utilised the graphics to physically show the viewer what he was trying to say, such as why ice floats the way it does on water. I’ve always found Cox quite easy to understand anyway, and his enthusiasm and wonder for the world came across well as always. I was really impressed with the sheer diversity of scenes and sights that we were allowed to explore together. From swimming with whales to exploring the formation of the Earth, each episode travelled all over space and time to bring a whole host of incredible examples of natural beauty. I could feel a certain wanderlust as I explored the world with Brian Cox, and my eyes were opened to cultures and situations I didn’t even know existed (who knew putting out volcanic sulphur fires was actually a real job?!).

The only thing I wasn’t sure about was why there was an age rating for over 16 for episode 3 – the presumable content in question was a tribal ceremony where by a person drinks the blood of a freshly slaughtered animal, but we never saw the animal get slaughtered, and I couldn’t really see anything distressing about the scene (if anything, watching thousands of tiny firefly squid get harvested by Japanese trawlers for food was more distressing). I wouldn’t want this to potentially put a young mind off learning so much about the world – especially when the rest of the programme is completely suitable for younger viewers. Some explanations might be a bit complex, but if a child has an interest then I see no reason why they wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.

I did want to hear more ‘what if’ scenarios whilst I was watching (e.g. “what if the world’s axis spun differently to how it does in reality?”), but each episode filled me with a curiosity for the world that lead to lots of research afterwards. Easy to engage with and exciting for all of the family, Brian Cox’s ‘Forces of Nature’ brings something powerful for each viewer, whether their interest lies in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Maths – or even just the beauty of the world around them.

I give it a 5/5.


Hannah Read

Forces of Nature at CeX

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