The Universe – Season One

Bright, flashing lights and a driving, vibrant sound track do wonders for video games. Similar dynamism brings home the worth of scientific exploration as seen in the History Channel’s “The Universe – Season One” on disc. Whether watching the debris from colliding asteroids as it flow into the rings of Uranus or seeing geysers spewing from Enceladus, there’s action a plenty in this video set.

Joining this quick paced action are facts and details that brings lots of science to the viewers. With careful juxtaposition, calm researchers provide clear reasoning on why clashing, spewing, whirling marvels exist. As the researchers all appear to be at the top of their respective scientific fields, their words add the weight to keep the shows grounded. Whether debating the planet-ness of Pluto, explaining the volcanoes of Titan or discussing how best to detect ET’s communication, they provide insight for the viewer to appreciate the novelty of the subject and the value of their research efforts. Further, by showing how the scientists accomplish their tasks, albeit briefly, these shows may be just the hook needed to draw students into a worthwhile, long-term career in science.

But, where the bright lights and near continuous sound track should attract the younger set, they may do the opposite for those appreciating a more sedate viewing experience. As well, it’s best to not watch shows one after another, as the viewer will start to see repetitious images and presentation styles. Also, there are times when the narration gives the impression of fact when there isn’t a definitive consensus in the scientific community. Therefore, enjoy the visuals and appreciate the hard work of the interviewees. But be prudent while watching and keep in mind that we’re still at the beginning of the learning curve when it comes to understanding the universe.

Yet, the average person’s knowledge doesn’t extend much past what they can directly see and feel. Thus, playing this 12 hour video set or even a selection or two may be just the ticket to expanding their awareness. After all, humanity’s survival is incredibly dependent upon a docile universe as shown by the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy upon Jupiter or the possible devastation that a neutron star would wreck upon Earth. The contents of History Channel’s season one “The Universe – Explore the Edges of the Unknown” (available in Blu-ray) can help set the hazard record straight and readily expand a viewer’s horizons.

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12 Replies to “The Universe – Season One”

  1. Even though I get tired of the “the moons are like this game of tetherball” kind of comparisons, and the vagueness on topics they should really go into deeper detail on, and as you mentioned the whole making things out like they are fact when not everything they are mentioning as such is indeed not fact… I actually enjoy The Universe. Its a whole lot better than watching Brittney Spears new album release news.

    Though I wish they would do one on particle physics. Even though they would make it kind of lame.

  2. I agree with Emission Nebula. I’ve tried hard to get into The Universe to satiate my yearning to improve my knowledge of astronomical/cosmological/astrophysical sciences but this show just falls far too short. I respect that it may be geared toward a younger or lay audience but then where are the shows for those of us who truly geek out on this stuff and make it a part of our daily lives? Like EN above, I really hate some of the mundane analogies they present when I really just want facts, figures, and lots of pretty pictures. 🙂

    In actuality, I find a combination of Universe Today, Bad Astronomy, APOD, and various other space-related news blogs to contain much better, thorough, and intelligent information on all the topics The Universe just grazes. The Universe’s content occasionally delves into the outlandish, as well, like xenomorphology/xenobiology, again just providing scant supposition that really sounds like it’s coming from the tinfoil hats and not reputable scientists.

    Recently, there was a very good two-hour special on National Geographic titled “Journey to the Edge of the Universe” that really felt infinitely more in-depth, intelligent, and sincere than any episode of The Universe.

    It’s narrated by Alec Baldwin who simply does a superb job drawing in the listener, evoking very subtle emotional tones, much like Sigourney Weaver’s great work narrating the Planet Earth series. The production quality on JthEotU seems quite a bit higher than The Universe, and while some of the CGI seems rushed and not quite photo-realistic, most of it is very well completely immersive, especially the Orion nebular complex. I highly recommend it. After viewing it, I’ve not been able to return to the general, fanciful idiocy that is The Universe. 😀

  3. I found “Season One” really good, almost addictive and was sad when I finished watching them all.

    Asked for Season Two for Christmas, finger crossed.

  4. Same as you James, S2 for XMas and I hear there’s a S3 on the way. Simple but addictive little series and a lot of fun to watch, though I agree with the OP about ‘fact’ vs ‘theory’ and not making proper distinctions.

  5. I totally agree that the loud ‘style’ of this series might turn off older viewers (I’m in my late forties). I watched most of these episodes when they were broadcast, and generally after two or three I ran screaming back to a tape of any old WGBH NOVA astronomy show, even if I’ve seen it more than once.
    It’s a shame that all the cable channels that produce anything on space feel like bright lights, quick camera cuts, and overwhelming music are necessary to convey the wonder of the universe. And that WGBH and BBC do so little along the space lines in their much more watchable styles.

  6. “As well, it’s best to not watch shows one after another, as the viewer will start to see repetitious images and presentation styles.”

    Why do American docos do this? I see it time and time again – the same animations used over and over again, and continuous re-explanation of what was just said two seconds ago. My mate from the US reckons that it is because of Cable TV – so many people flick channels so frequently with Cable TV that after every ad break they have to summarise what has gone before it in the program for those people that tune in half way through.

    Fair enough – but it is a crap style to present a doco in. I haven’t seen the Universe yet so I’m not sure how bad it is, but the comment highlighted above leads me to believe that it may suffer from this horrible affliction too…

    As far as science docos go, you simply can’t go past the BBC. The Brits have the doco form nailed.

  7. I have series 1 & 2. I am in my late 50’s & I must agree that (to me at least) the sound effects are irritating & tiring, They are a relentless “onslaught” where the incessant sound effects detract rather than enhance the production. Less is more: dramatic emphasis is not achieved by non-stop noise !! I found I could only watch it when the sound was turned right down. I also agree that the continual “recapping” is similarly a negative & probably reflects the production’s origin made for cable TV with its ad breaks. Having made all these negative comments, It also felt some what “dumbed down” to me. Hate to say it to US readers but the Brits would have done a beeter job in my opinion. Despite these negative comments, I enjoyed the series overall.

  8. They totally lost me when in one episode an astronomer said: “in addition to being an astronomer I’m also a belly dancer and a fire performer”. Then started showing how gravity affects both star and planet by swinging some firethingy on a chain wearing tight clothes.

    And season 3 mostly goes into things already show. And strange concepts such as “ep4: sex in space”.

  9. “Also, there are times when the narration gives the impression of fact when there isn’t a definitive consensus in the scientific community.”

    Unfortunately, much of what is now ‘consensus opinion’ started out the same way: Theory that has not been proven, but has survived a popularized. These broad public outlines need to reflect more of the true skepticism within the community.

  10. I’m a little bit disappointed. English isn’t my native language, so I hoped it would be subtitled in English. Unfortunately, it’s not, although Amazon says so.

    But on other websites, they confirm that it is not subtitled.

    So I ask why they haven’t bothered to do this. I don’t expect it to be translated into my language, but English would be good enough.


  12. A Blue Ray Disk is to be released in a few months called “To the End of the Universe.”
    I think it is a National Geographic production and I can’t wait for that!

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