Netflix’s ‘Pandemic’ documentary eerie must-watch during current crisis

Netflix’s ‘Pandemic’ documentary eerie must-watch during current crisis

By Michael Foust
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

One of the best new entries in the Netflix lineup is a documentary series that won’t leave you laughing or even cheering — although it’s so engrossing that you might binge it until the end.

Titled “Pandemic,” this six-part docuseries quietly entered the Netflix lineup Jan. 22 just as the COVID-19 virus was beginning to catch worldwide attention.


Filmed prior to the outbreak, it was advertised as a documentary that explored ways humans can prepare for the “next devastating global outbreak.”

Little did we know that the next life-changing worldwide pandemic was just around the corner.

The docuseries (rated TV-14) follows doctors and virologists around the world as they try to slow the spread of epidemics at their source — which, as we learn in “Pandemic,” often is China.

“[China is] the place where we’ve seen the emergence of virtually all of the deadly influenza viruses over the last half century,” Dennis Carroll, then-director of the USAID’s emerging threats unit, says in the documentary.

Viruses originate in animals. Carroll takes us to wet markets along the China-Vietnam border, where, he says, animals “in a confined space elevate the risk for a virus to spread and mutate.”

Stopping viruses is often a medical game of Whac-A-Mole, although scientists have plenty of successes.

The documentary opens with a somber scene of Carroll visiting a mass grave in Pennsylvania that was used to bury those who died during the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed 50 million people.

“This kind of carnage is not relegated to history,” he says. “When we talk about another flu pandemic happening, it’s not a matter of if, but when.”

Carroll’s warning may be eerie in hindsight, but his advice on the topic should be considered.

The entire series is fascinating, although episodes 1 and 3 are the ones that most directly relate to the current pandemic. (Episode 3 spotlights China.)

“Pandemic” also gives a positive nod to Christianity, spotlighting an Oklahoma Christian doctor who is driven by her faith to help others.

(Content warnings: “Pandemic” is largely void of language, although the exceptions will be significant for some families: I caught two f-words — both spoken by researcher Sarah Ives. I didn’t catch any language in episode 3.)

If “Pandemic” is a little too true-to-life for you right now, another new Netflix documentary might provide a welcome distraction with a scientific angle to boot.

Titled “Night on Earth,” the six-part original series uses the latest camera technology to record the actions of animals — lions and monkeys and everything in between — at night.

“Using new technology, we can see into the blackness to discover a hidden side [to the world],” the narrator tells us.

Stunning images

This documentary, though, is far more than a series filled with thermal images. Much of the documentary uses new low-light cameras that can film ultra-high definition in the dark — and in color. The result: stunning images of animals under the moonlight that (almost) appear as if they were filmed in sunlight.

We watch lions hunt a cheetah. (The latter is just too fast.) We see lions hunt a giraffe. (It escapes too.) But not everything gets away. A mouse captures and kills a scorpion. (But honestly, I was just fine with that.)

“Night on Earth” gives us a peek at animals on the plains, in jungles, in cold environments and deep in the sea.

It’s a unique celebration of God’s creation that will entertain you, yes, but also might lead you to worship and repeat the words of David: “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate” (Ps. 145:5).