President Obama introduced the new version of Cosmos hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson on Sunday. In a video, Obama “invites a new generation to embrace the spirit of discovery” that the original Cosmos inspired people with, which enabled them also to “imagine limitless possibilities for the future,” according to Fox.
Cosmos is back on the air for 13 episodes, though it has stiff competition, as it runs opposite AMC’s hit series, The Walking Dead. 34 years after the original Cosmos that aired on PBS, hosted by Carl Sagan, the new version promises to stay true to the original but also be updated, to appeal to modern viewers.
The executive producer for the updated Cosmos is Seth McFarlane, and he also supplies some of the voices for animated segments of the series. Animation replaces the historical skits which were in the original Cosmos. For instance, in the first episode, McFarlane provides the voice for the 16th century Dominican monk, Giordano Bruno. He paid for his ideas, which were controversial at the time and went against the teachings of the church, with his life. He was burned at the stake.
Bruno made the mistake of declaring that the Sun is a star, and suggesting that several other planets existed, all throughout the universe. Bruno said that this knowledge came to him in a vision, so he is a somewhat unusual person to be profiled in this first episode, as he didn’t test his theories.
The original Cosmos featured a “Ship of the Imagination” which guided viewers throughout the cosmos, with no barriers to stop them from their explorations. The ship will also be in the new Cosmos, but with an updated appearance, and it will be able to travel to even more fascinating places, like to the bottom of a dewdrop and to explore the realms of potential multiverses.
Sagan speculated in the original Cosmos that planets would be found, one day, to be orbiting around other stars. Today, astronomers know of more than 1,000 other planets that exist beyond our own solar system. Also, Sagan put forth the idea, which seems prophetic now, that we were on the brink of having a global communication network. That was before the Internet revolutionized the way the world communicates.
Carl Sagan has passed away, but his wife, Ann Druyen, is the producer of the new Cosmos. Tyson worked closely with her, and he relates that when he was 17, he watched wand was inspired by Cosmos. Tyson said that Sagan even gave him an autographed copy of one of his books, with an inscription that called Tyson “a future astronomer.” Carl Sagan’s voice introduces the premiere episode of the new Cosmos, and it will be interwoven into future episodes, as well.
According to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the goal of Cosmos is “to convey why science matters to the person, to our society, to us as shepherds of this planet.” He added that it doesn’t matter if you are influenced to become a scientist by the end of the series. But, he hopes that viewers will “recognize its role in who and what you are.”
Cosmos will cover some topics that are politically controversial, like evolution and climate change. For instance, in the premiere episode, Tyson states that the coal we burn today that came from forests which grew 300 million years ago both powers and imperils the civilization of today.
Tyson credits Seth McFarlane with interesting a big network, like Fox, to carry Cosmos to what hopefully be a wider audience than it might have otherwise managed to attract. Cosmos will run on 10 networks, including FX and Fox Sports, and each Monday, it will be shown again on the National Geographic Channel at 10:00 p.m. ET, with additional bonus material.
Written by: Douglas Cobb