Richard Hammond’s Invisible Worlds

The best bits. With significantly less gurning (though not none).


I had a teacher once who, let’s say, didn’t have the tightest grip on her emotions. In fact, regularly her exasperation at our class (not at me – well, not specifically me) would mount to the point that she’d have no choice but to exclaim “I went to university you know! I know what I’m talking about!”

Now I mention this because one can’t help but hear Miss Anglesea’s desperate cry for appreciation echoed in Richard Hammond’s Invisible Worlds. Here is a documentary so proud of its fast shutter-speed cameras that it feels the situation calls for a fanfare for them every time they do their thing. “Now it seems to the naked eye that nothing is going on, but if we slow it down with our super slow-motion-cameras it appears there is something happening here that we previously never could imagined…” No, but since the last six times you said that it showed us something pretty damn spectacular I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case here – stop being a clip-tease Hammond.

And it is spectacular. There’s a reason every action film made since, well, Chariots Of Firehas struggled with the decision of whether to hold back on the slow-motion or to Matrix the shit out of it. Slow-motion looks cool, and it does here. Lots of things happening – water droplets, lightning bolts, spores from horse dung, all flying around in all directions, all looking cooler than Keanu Reeve’s coat-tails (the true heroes of that movie). The problem isn’t that the documentary doesn’t do anything impressive, it’s that it’s constantly vying for your approval of it, like the kid at the front of the class trying to show his teacher he’s already completed this week’s homework and next week’s as well. By all means hang your medical degree in your office, but don’t point out it’s location on the wall every time we ask for a repeat subscription.

Then to pad out what could have boiled down to a 5 minute YouTube clip of scientific spectacle they’ve thrown in plenty of close-ups of Richard Hammond’s own eye to remind you what organ you see with, and clips of the camera spinning around on a rollercoaster to remind you what it’s like to move your head really quick. There’s also plenty of the Top Gear-esque ‘Ey, you’ll never guess what we’re going to do next!’ as he blows up a quarry face and then 1000lbs of gunpowder – both to pretty much illustrate the exact same point – but when you have to watch the Hamster playing with a bumblebee it starts to feel like the 55th minute of a half hour lesson plan or that time your teacher was retiring and took the class for a walk to just ‘soak up the science’.

There’s plenty of really fascinating revelations – like the fact that the real power of an explosion is in the shockwave it sends out – but then there is also the nagging suspicion that these are things you sort of.half knew before, possibly revealed in a documentary ten years ago with slightly faster slow-motion. I didn’t really believe it was the gunpowder physically flying knocking into the rocks around it did I? Come to think of it what did I believe? Most likely these revelations are such a surprise because they’re about subjects you never gave a flying horse-shit spore about before.

My last complaint (I wrote a list) involves the use of the word ‘equivalent’. “That’s the equivalent of 1000 miles an hour!” is all very well but what does it mean? Does it mean that if water skeeters were human they’d be going that fast? Or vice versa? Either way, not to knock their messianic achievements (I do believe Hammond referred to the creatures as ‘Christ-like’) but nobody’s expecting me to skim across the water are they? Tell me how fast they’rereally going and let me be the judge of how impressive that is. In fact, that advice goes for the whole documentary. I may be a few months short of a film and english degree and have embarrassingly little understanding of the science you’re presenting but that doesn’t mean you need to boast about how amazed I’m going to be when you see fit to present me with your earth shattering slow-mo science. There’s that bible quote people love to read at weddings:

‘Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous, love is never boastful or conceited’

I think the same should go for science.

Bears a remarkable resemblance. Much less gurning though.

PS. Wow, documentaries really bring those repressed primary school memories out of me. And yes, FYI, I was that kid at the front of the class, I like to think most bloggers were.

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2 Responses to Richard Hammond’s Invisible Worlds

  1. Tim says:

    Many good points Monsieur Butler.Bit heavy on padding and pretty pictures and light on everything else.Might be nice as some kind of ident with a bit of Sigur Ros in the background though.Also, looks like they were passing the slow-mo camera 'pon the left hand side down at BBC HQ:


  2. Josh Butler says:

    Lol, 'pon.In all honesty I was so asleep when I decided to write this I'd kinda forgotten though the course of the day that I did.


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