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Underwater Universe

(History Channel; US DVD: 28 Jun 2011)

Underwater Universe: The Complete First Season is the follow-up to the Underwater Universe special.  It’s The History Channel’s take on an oceanic nature series, which means that, like the network’s popular series The Universe, it’s filled with sensationalist scare tactics. Not the kind of scary stuff you might find in an ecologically minded production attempting to expose global warming trends or to encourage conservation, this is more like a monster movie with the sea in a starring role.


The two-disc set contains the five episodes of the series. Each episode is increasingly more frightening, as the series seems to be trying to convince viewers that Earth’s oceans are out to get us. The show uses a mixture of excellent CGI graphics, scientific data, expert interviews and real footage of natural disasters and catastrophic oceanic events to help make this case.


Disc One contains the first four episodes, beginning with Killer Shockwaves, which presents the three kinds of “abnormal waves”: Rogue wave, Monster wave and Tsunami. Examples of the devastation that each can cause, as well as details on how and why these waves occur, stir up apprehension, but what ‘s really scary is that these waves are not yet fully understood. The fear of the unknown is perhaps the scariest fear of all.


Predators of the Deep gives us even more to fear, however, as it ranks the five deadliest underwater predators, organized how often they attack and kill human beings. Orcas, Great White Sharks, Giant Squid, Salt Water Crocodiles and Box Head Jellyfish are profiled like serial killers. The photographic evidence of injuries sustained after encounters with these creatures is enough to keep anyone from daring to swim in the ocean again!


The third episode is Tides and Currents of Death, which just about says it all, don’t you think? It’s all about how the Earth’s gravitational forces will one day wash us—and everything else on the planet—away in a massive, world-wide tidal wave. This episode also discusses the four deadliest tides and introduces “The Great Ocean Conveyor” a current that destroyed 80 percent of life on Earth approximately 250 million years ago.


Feeling thalassophobic (that’s an irrational fear of the sea) yet? Episode four, Fatal Pressure, will ensure that you develop a whole host of new phobias and hypochondriac symptoms on your next seaside visit. The bends and nitrogen narcosis are just the beginning. Human technological advances can only go so far in exploring the vast depths and, as this episode keeps telling us, the pressure at the bottom of the ocean can crush us oh so easily.


Viewers will now be thinking the ocean is actually consciously contemplating this on a daily basis, as it rolls around in its watery undersea lair, laughing evilly like a Bond villain. One can’t help wondering if that may have been the intention of the show’s creators all along.


Disc two contains only one episode, the feature-length special, which is essentially the series pilot, Underwater Universe. It provides an overview of all the terrifying things the ocean has in store for unsuspecting humans: surges, hurricanes, cyclones, whirlpools, ice floes, underwater volcanoes, drowning and many more horrors that, according to the scientists and experts questioned, will eventually kill us all.


The DVDs have no extra features, unless you count the pilot episode, and the menus and navigation are fairly standard. Underwater Universe: The Complete First Season is fascinating to watch, but it isn’t for everyone (this is not a kid-friendly, Discovery-style show). It’s definitely educational in a sense, but that’s only secondary to the sensational thrill of a good scare.

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Christel Loar is a freelance writer and editor, a part-time music publicist, and a full-time music fan. She is often an overreactor and sometimes an overachiever. When not dodging raindrops or devising escape plans, Christel is usually found down front and slightly left of center stage reveling in a performance by yet another new favorite band.


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