Classic science show revisits the universe and TV in 2014

By David Combest

March 19, 2014

In 1980, PBS made television history by broadcasting “The Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” which was presented by acclaimed astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan. Sagan entertained and sparked wonder in science that applied not only to the cosmos but life on Earth as well.

Sagan’s genius and passion for his work brought more Americans than ever before into the discussion about science. It was the most watched program of public television and for a good reason it was awe-inspiring. Sagan travelled the cosmos in his Spaceship of Imagination, shaped like a dandelion’s seed, a metaphor for floating into new territory. With amazing graphics, the show brought the viewer into the topic and made the experience real.

Starting last Sunday, the Spaceship of Imagination voyages once again in the sequel, “The Cosmos: A Space-time Odyssey.” The show is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who, like his predecessor, is an amazing astrophysicist and science communicator.

The series launched across 10 Fox channels and finds its home on Fox on Sunday nights and National Geographic Channel on Monday nights with extra features. The episode opens with a tribute to Sagan, who asks the audience to come with him and Tyson takes over standing on the same shore Sagan stood on in the clip. With a serious yet enthusiastic tone, Tyson invites the audience to take a journey into the cosmos once more, and with that, we are shot into space on the Spaceship of Imagination.

The special effects are very realistic. Tyson handles them with ease and is a clear authority of using them. In other words, the captain knows his ship well. The show focuses on the planets in our Solar System, moving into the trials of 16th century scientist, astrologer and Dominican friar Giordano Bruno when he set out to tell the truth of an expansive universe.

Evolution is featured through very realistic graphics all while Tyson entertains and informs beautifully. The conversational feel of Tyson’s presentation is much welcomed because it does not insult the viewer as though they are unable to grasp the concepts being shown to them by the breath-taking visual effects. One can hardly believe that this show is on during the primetime hour on a popular night for television shows, let alone on a for-profit channel.

Today, America is sometimes seen as a nation that is falling behind others when it comes to progressions with science. Hopefully, “The Cosmos” can help challenge this view by offering an intriguing look at the experiences around us without dumbing them down for cheap thrills. It is refreshing to see a show that isn’t oversexed or unnecessarily violent have a place in a very profitable hour of TV.

The visuals alone are jaw dropping and wonderful illustrations to demonstrate how the universe came to be. Tyson could not be better as the host nor could anyone but him fill the large shoes Sagan left behind. The end of the first episode even goes into a wonderful tribute to Sagan and how Sagan inspired Tyson to get a career in astrophysics.

This show, along with a few other science-focused programs, is a ray of hope in a world that seems to have been thrown in the shadows by the idea that science videos, shows and programs are strictly for the classroom.

It is much welcomed to see a primetime show out to educate, entertain, inform and most of all, change the face of contemporary American views on what is fact and what is truth about our universe.