The NOVA show implicitly endorsed recapitulationism, as did Charles Darwin.
Haeckel's Law is no strawman, but a widespread illusion that continues to
mislead people. Now to the fossils:
Niles Eldredge has written: "No wonder paleontologists shied away from
evolution for so long. It never seems to happen." New things appear suddenly
in rocks dated in different ages, but there is no pattern of gradual
transformation and no ability to identify specific ancestors of major groups.
Although Eldredge admits that the fossil record contradicts the theory of
gradual adaptive change, he nonetheless calls himself a "knee-jerk
neo-Darwinist," meaning apparently that he believes the theory despite what he
knows as a paleontologist.
The non-occurence of Darwinian change is particularly evident where fossils are
most plentiful—in marine invertebrates, for example. There it's all
variation within the type, with no substantial evolution. Thus Eldredge, a
trilobite specialist, tells stories about hominids when he wants to lecture
The occasional claims of fossil transitional forms nearly all involve
vertebrates, and become "ancestors" only through subjective interpretation.
Hominid stories are particularly plentiful because ape and human bones are
sufficiently similar that, with a bit of imagination, a variant ape can be seen
as on the way to becoming human.
Considering the overall pattern, the claimed transitionals may just be
artifacts of the theory. It's commonplace that researchers in any field will
find examples to confirm what they already believe, especially where the
evidence is scanty and open to interpretation. If you want to test the theory
instead of just support it, you have to look at the evidence as a whole without
assuming that the theory is true. When we do this, we find that the fossil
record remains as it was in 1859: pervasively anti-Darwinian despite
unremitting efforts to impose a Darwinian interpretation. (Chapter 4 of Darwin
on Trial provides details.)
Now let's suppose for argument's sake that Australopithecus did become Homo,
and that wolf-like Mesonyx somehow became Ambulocetus. Was this by an
accumulation of micromutations through natural selection? How did the "dog"
improve in fitness while its body was in the early stages of this
transformation to acquatic life? What mechanism known to science can produce
human mental capacities from an ape brain? What is the source of the vast
amount of information required to create these wonders?
The mechanism is all-important because that is what gets the Creator out of the
picture. In fact, the mechanism finds its primary support in materialist
philosophy, not evidence. If materialism is true, then something roughly like
Darwinism is a logical necessity regardless of the evidence. That is why so
many believe so fervently despite the fossil disappointments. They were taught
that materialist philosophy and science are basically the same thing, and that
the most plausible materialist speculation constitutes "scientific knowledge."
I'm not proposing another theory; I'm explaining why I'm not convinced by
yours. When the truth is that we don't know, it's best to say so.