got the plantet earth HD on discovery.com. the weaver narration is annoying after an hour or so. every new scene she is telling me how lucky I am to see something never before filmed. is this the same with the attenborough series?
The original Attenborough narration is (in my opinion) infinitely better. The BBC natural history unit assumes a certain level of intellect, a decent vocabulary and an appreciation of quality prose. I saw part of one Weaver episode, followed shortly thereafter by Attenborough's version (Weaver's narration happened to be on TV the day my blu-ray copy arrived) which had the following narration when showing a pair of hunting eagles (this is slightly paraphrased, don't hold me to the exact quote):
Attenborough: "...the veil of winter falls..." Weaver: "...it starts to snow..."
I prefer the Weaver narration. British accents really get on my nerves after 30 mins. Weaver has a more cool tone in her voice and less "wordy, windy" vocabulary. As Trevor Hirst mentioned, I think her line works better for me. This is nature, not Shakespeare. Her voice narration is similar to her work in the film, Gorillas In The Mist.
Sir Attenborough's presentation is certainly distinctive, although I would not recommend it as a model for narration. He might not say "you are lucky to see this shot for the first time" as much as Weaver, but by the time I finished the first disk, I was already tired of "clearly visible from space." What does that mean? Everything is clearly visible from space, depending on which space and what optics you use. And I do recall Attenborough highlighting "the first time ever filmed" in one phrase or another, over and over again. So it might be more a matter of perception/recall than actual script variations. He also seemingly never passes up an opportunity to say that something "is vulnerable."
Attenborough also engages in a form of sensationalism that sometimes does not serve the viewer well. For example, there are several places where he makes a statement (parphrased) "all life on earth comes from the sun, directly or indirectly." But in the Caves program of Planet Earth and the Deep Ocean in Blue Planet we are very clearly and specifically told that these ecosystems are not tied to the sun at all--all three (both the hot vents and cold seeps in the deep ocean) are based on extremophile bacteria which gain energy from sulfides and other gases escaping through cracks in the ocean floor.
I have not seen the Weaver version and am not at all making any statements here about whether one is better than the other. I have not at all enjoyed some of the presenters in the IMAX/DISCOVERY/HISTORY channel(s) mode who seem to be trying to lull me into some sort of stupor. This is exciting and interesting stuff, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with some emotional content in the voice.
I am also not sure how much more Sir Attenborough has done or will be able to do. In the "behind the scenes" bits in Blue Planet, he does seem to be pained by the challenge. He always has had a way of putting his whole body into his narration--and that, perhaps may be the most striking difference between the stereotypical BBC "naturalist and presenter" and the work of someone trained in television (espeically, but also to a lesser degree in film) where it just would not do to be shaking and jumping at each stressed syllable.
I have also been surprised that the BBC seems to have no stylesheet for presenters. Even some key names--such as "glacier"--are pronounced completely differently, even by other BBC nature presenters. Perhaps "glass-ee-er" is one of the idiosyncratic small conceits allowed performers of Sir Attenborough's stature and long tradition.
For example, in the "Nigel Marvin" "Walking with Dinosaurs" series, as well as with Mike Dupray (sp?) and Kate (?) who also work as presenters--quite obviously--on the "Amazon River" and "Shark Volcano" bonus materials included in the Blue Planet discs, have a presentation style in the mold of Attenboroughs. All have persona as "ordinary folk" experiencing these amazing bits of nature for the first time, rather than the more typical narrator-as-"don't get in the way" cool and factual guide. In the BBC Natural History compendia, several presenters, including the famed "new bring Shakespeare to the screen" Kevin Branagh show a variety of presenting styles.
Like Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Attenborough's work has changed the world. Though neither are scientists, they both have had stellar careers working side-by-side with scientists as equals and often as project leaders. Another interesting juxtaposition of narration styles is scene in Fantasia 2000. There the "old school" narrator of the original Fantasia has been replaced by an unconnected cast of presenters each famous in other roles. This also might be seen as an analog of the replacement of Bob Edwards in NPR's Morning Edition. Well known among public radio listeners, he was replaced by reporter/editor presenters--his job had always been to read the scripts written at the news desks.
So there are probably many reasons to like or dislike Attenborough and Weaver. I would suggest that the difference is more adroitly presented as one of the roles and assignments of the people in those roles than of the relative skill or talent of either.
It's the same case with the voice you hear from your Garmin GPS navigator, or the voice commands on your cell phone, or in any movie where the computer can talk back; people prefer to hear a nice sexy woman voice, not an 80 year old man. I suppose the exception would be the voice of KITT in Knight Rider. But he had kind of a computerized jazzy voice going on. There's always an exception to the rule.
A big problem I have with Discovery version, is that after hearing Attenborough, I can't imagine why they would need a second English language narration unless they think Americans are really stupid. Hopefully it has something to do with distribution rights and maybe marketing for classrooms of young American schoolchildren?-- but I can't help thinking that the Discovery channel and Weaver is talking down us: "Don't worry- I know that scary old English person is too smart for you, I'll make him go away. Ohh, look at the big bird, he's making happy noises!" ;)
I generally like when documentary narrators are wordy and intellectual, but for some reason I can't stand Attenborough's tone and style. I really enjoyed Weaver's smooth melodic approach, and I have to say I was quite disappointed when I realized I had purchased the incorrect version. My fault for not researching more in advance I suppose.
I have to agree with Cuvtixo. Yes, there are two versions, and each might be better from some point-of-view. But WHY are there two versions to begin with. You'd think there is a lot of work in developing scripts and reading for 13 hours of this series. They ARE both in the English language and understandable by people on both sides of "the pond." Yes, of course you can debate which is the "most correct" or "most intellectual" or "most whatever." But I'm puzzled too as to why the second (Weaver) version was even produced.
I got the BD version with Attenborough and I'm pleased that I did. I'm not sure what made this version not qualified for showing in the U.S. He does use confusing numbers that involve "meters," which I know eternally confuse us in this country. Not sure if the Sigourney version was metric or "English" -- an ironic question since the "English" version is METRIC!
At one point Attenborough compares the number of species in a forest to the total number in the U.K, to show how diverse the forest environment is. Maybe it was comparisons to U.K. statistics and landmarks that were the problem.
I watched most of the series on DirecTV last year, which was the Sigourney version, and though it was OK, I also felt that her reading was disconnected and unemotional, at times, like "HOW MANY more hours of this do we still have to record?"
Finally, I have to say my cat really likes this program. He is watching the Attenborough version now. I don't have the Weaver version to give him a choice to make a fair comparison, though. I think it's really the birds and small animals he likes, however. Those humans talking don't mean much to him unless they bring him food.
I think we should focused on how these two narrators deliver the script rather than saying Attenborough have more intelect than Weaver since they are just reading the script given to them by the respective writers. Yeah probably they have added some words to it but I doubt they are the one who wrote what they are saying.