When it sticks to its theme, "Water, Birth, the Planet Earth," is a fine nature documentary, splendidly photographed and cogently written to support its thesis that "water is the river upon which evolution has charted its course."
Through an imaginative use of montage at the outset of the hourlong program, airing at 9 tonight on KCET Channel 28, producer-directors Elli and Jim Dutcher show how water came to be formed on the young, smoldering Earth and how the oceans became a molecular stew that eventually gave rise to life.
In following the various forms that life took, the program periodically lapses into the routine as the Dutchers veer from the theme to include footage with which they obviously didn't want to part. Extended coverage of a snake consuming a live frog, for example, is unusual but has nothing to do with water or evolution.
For the most part, however, the documentary is valuable for instilling an appreciation of water's role as a life force.
Narrated by Richard Kiley, "Water, Birth, the Planet Earth" was originally shown on cable's "National Geographic Explorer" series last year. Jim Dutcher also served as photographer and editor.