Whenever anyone hears the chanted words “Bill, Bill, Bill,” they instantly recognize the lyrics as part of the opening theme song of “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” But some of Nye’s fans do not know what the scientist has been up to since he played the fun professor on the PBS children’s show in the 1990s.
The documentary “Bill Nye: Science Guy,” released Oct. 27 and directed by David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg, follows Nye’s life and career since his time on the show. The film explores Nye’s legacy of educating the public about important issues in science, yet also shows the obstacles he has faced in transitioning from the goofy television scientist to a respected expert and science advocate.
“These people who are denying science, denying evolution, denying the efficacy of vaccinations and especially denying human-caused climate change — we just can’t have this. We’ve got to fight this fight,” Nye says in a scene in the film.
This phrase establishes the premise of the whole documentary in only the first few minutes of the film. Nye has long been an advocate of combating climate change, serving as the chief executive officer of The Planetary Society and authoring several books discussing the severity of human-caused climate change and the importance of fighting it.
The biopic is not simply a retelling of Nye’s life and work, as it also features thorough explanations of certain scientific issues and the debates surrounding them. Nye explains important matters like climate change with ease and clarity. In all of its arguments, the documentary includes scientific proof and impassioned speeches from big names in the science field, such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan.
Although the children who watched Bill Nye growing up may initially have trouble imagining the hilarious science expert as a master debater, their preconceived notions are challenged throughout the film. The audience follows Nye as he debates two “anti-science” leaders: creationism advocate Ken Ham on evolution and metereologist Joe Bastardi on human-caused climate change.
Through Nye’s debates with Ham and Bastardi, the documentary sheds light on a major challenge facing the scientific community today: the difficulty of informing a mass of people who are set in their own beliefs. Nye is determined in pursuing his goal of enlightening the public on important science-related issues and sharing factual evidence. After all, the film focuses on Nye’s ultimate objective of sharing science with all in order to leave the world better than he found it.
One of the most remarkable aspects of this film is its incorporation of human emotion into a premise largely focused on science and reason. The writers and directors of the film effectively include enough backstory about Nye’s childhood to convey his passion for science to the audience without veering into melodrama. Through interviews with Nye, the audience can better understand his frustration in seeing the anti-science community in the United States grow.
Without overwhelming the other aspects of the film, the emotion presented in the documentary presents the matter of science education as an urgent, pressing issue that deserves just as much attention as national political issues.
Featuring segments of speeches from President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and former Governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska), the film presents some widely publicized anti-science arguments to further show the extent of the resistance Nye faces. The camera cuts from natural landscapes to shots of Nye’s engagements with classrooms and lecture halls full of people, which creates an image of him as a scientist truly dedicated to educating the public on his beliefs, particularly regarding climate change.
The documentary also captures powerful, authentic moments in Nye’s life, including a scene in which parts of the Russell Glacier in Greenland collapse right in front of his eyes. Scenes like these in which Nye must confront the degradation of nature show and evoke emotional response from the audience.
“Bill Nye: Science Guy” leaves its audience in awe of the goofy television scientist-turned-field expert and succeeds in showing the urgency and relevance of his struggles against the anti-science community. The documentary proves that Nye is no longer just the star of a hit children’s show, but rather, a fierce opponent of climate change determined to change the world, regardless of whether he faces opposition in his journey.