National Geographic has made itself comfortable over on Disney+ and its newest addition, Welcome to Earth, fits right in. Some of their programs are documentaries, some are full. Welcome to Earth is a six-episode documentary, hosted by Will Smith, where he gets to go “further than the ends of the earth” to discover just what makes it tick.
Of course, I was on board as soon as I saw Will Smith was hosting, his energy and charisma always brings something positive to the table. It’s very similar to how I felt about The World According to Jeff Goldblum or Running Wild with Bear Grylls. Celebrities make learning a little more fun, as silly as it seems. Without him, I may not have been as inclined to stick through the whole series.
Welcome to Earth features six episodes that dive into a different phenomenon on Earth, and really focuses on the senses, and how the Earth can challenge them in different ways. Descent into Darkness, The Silent Road, Power of Scent, Speed of Life, Mind of the Swarm, and Beyond Fear are the six titles, giving just a hint at what lies ahead. From sight, sound, scent, movement, and more, Welcome to Earth showcases our planet in ways I’ve really never seen before.
Descent into Darkness was the episode that I enjoyed the best, and learned the most from. I’m the person who still Googles “deep sea creatures” because the things that lie at the bottom of the ocean are absolutely insane. In the episode, Smith was asked to wear red, not knowing why. The deeper into the ocean you go, the more light you lose. As they descended deeper into the water, the host’s bright red shirt was now blue, and he hadn’t even noticed the change until it was pointed out. It goes on to look into bioluminescence and discusses why the creatures are the colours they are.
“Welcome to Earth features six episodes that dive into a different phenomenon on Earth, and really focuses on the senses, and how the Earth can challenge them in different ways.”
The rest of the series follows the same pattern, covering 3 or 4 different groups studying a similar topic, darkness, sound, scent etc. Smith only really participates in about one segment per episode, but it’s enough to stay engaging, and I never found myself waiting for him to come back. With several different experts, like Marine Biologist, Diva Amon, and blind mountaineer, Erik Weihenmayer, the show explores the deep sea, the waters of Raine Island, Australia, active volcanoes on Mount Yasur, wildebeests in the Serengeti and more.
My favourite moment in Welcome to Earth is the beginning of The Silent Roar, when Smith gives a little insight into why he wanted to make this show, “I’ve never swum in a lake, never climbed a mountain. I was in a cave once, and I’ve never slept in a tent. But I’m beginning to think I might be missing something, so I hooked up with some modern day explorers, and I asked them to take me to the ends of the earth. And they said, ‘oh, we can go further than that.’”
At 52 years old, Smith decided he wanted to explore everything he could, even the things that scared him. “I’m frightened of water,” he announces as he climbs into a plastic bubble meant to take him far below the surface of the ocean. It’s amazing to see someone that we have watched do every stunt in the book be vulnerable and face his fears.
“At 52 years old, Smith decided he wanted to explore everything he could, even the things that scared him.”
Welcome to Earth may seem like another show that will just show you locations around the world you may not normally see. It dives deeper than that. We learn about different kinds of scientists, explorers and locals. We learn about how the earth plays with our senses, like feeling sound before we can hear it, or “the smell of rain before the drops come.”
My only issue with Welcome to Earth is the age rating. At TV-14, it really limits the educational value for the family. My kids would be so interested in these episodes, but because of occasional language, they technically shouldn’t be watching it. Now, to each parent their own. I am happy to let my children watch it because I believe what they will take away from it is more than just a few bad words. I do believe that there will be families this rating excludes though, and that is unfortunate.
Welcome to Earth finds a creative way to cover geography and environmental curiosities. Though there are plenty of documentaries like it out there, Will Smith is a fun addition to the program. The unique correlation between the Earth and our senses sets Welcome to Earth apart from other documentaries of its kind, and I hope to see more of it in the future.