NatGeo's One Strange Rock is Visually Stunning and a Must Watch - Review

I'm going to tell you about the most incredible place. It might be the weirdest place in the whole universe. Full of liquid rock, crystal caves and alien landscapes. And you know what? You're walking on it. - Will Smith

One Strange Rock, which premieres Sunday on National Geographic Channel is the storied magazine's answer to the BBC's Planet Earth. Hosted by Will Smith, the hour long program goes back and forth from macro to micro coverage of the strange and wonderful rock that we all live on, Earth.

In this 10-Part series, narrator and host Will Smith is joined by eight astronauts, Chris Hadfield, Jeff Hoffman, Mae Jemison, Jerry Linenger, Mike Massimino, Leland Melvin, Nicole Stott and Peggy Whitson. Together they use personal stories of their time in outer space (well, the astronauts do - no mention of After Earth) to explain the delicate balance that is required to keep our Earth survivable.

The series is Executive Produced by Darren Aronofsky, who doesn't direct any of the series but certainly has a strong influence on the look and feel of the episodes that I've been able to see so far. The camera work and editing feel much like they could be straight out parts of Aronofsky's 2006 The Fountain. While, I found The Fountain a bit heady and heard to follow, One Strange Rock

While most nature documentaries can lull you to sleep this one with bird calls and the sound of waterfalls, this one will keep you paying attention with jarring noises and cliffhanger styled editing. The Earth can be a violent and reactive place, even among the unbelievable beauty of it. Which truly is the core idea behind this fantastic series that should be in every single middle school science classroom in America. Please National Geographic - make that happen ASAP.

Will Smith is certainly the headline grabber but the show-stealers are the astronauts. The first episode features probably the best known recent astronaut, Chris Hadfield. His stories from his time in the International Space Station are incredible. If you don't follow the comings and goings of famous spacemen, you'll remember him from the viral video of rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity. While yet another doc that talks to astronauts about their time in space wouldn't be all that unusual - One Strange Rock - uses their stories as a bridge to get to Earth. From there Hadfield and others explain how, for example in episode one, "Gasp", all the parts of the planet from the enormous (the Amazon rainforest) to the microscopic (diatoms) feed into each other just so that we can keep breathing.

With the content that it's covering, the series could easily use its platform to scream about global climate change. But thankfully it doesn't. And, believe me I'm not saying that because I'm a climate denier, I'm saying it because the message is already there built into the facts and passion of the presenters. People will be able to watch this, enjoy it (and I really mean that, you will actually enjoy this documentary) and not be thrown by their prior prejudices. The producers and writers need to seriously be applauded for that.


The cast and crew of One Strange Rock went for a big reach on this series, making a nature doc that compete visually with the BBC's Planet Earth but manages to be dramatically different enough that it won't upon viewing be considered a copycat. They not only succeed but I think that they have ended up creating a new style completely. Instead of trying to view nature from as this distant idea that has to be explained by biologists and can only be viewed through a telephoto lens they're able to make everything real enough and important enough for you to not only care but want to out there and experience it yourself.

Check back soon as we'll have interviews with the show's producers and at least one of the astronauts as their episode airs. Episode one premieres March 26th at 10/9 central on the National Geographic Channel.