Rebirth of the ‘Cosmos’


Many years have passed since the world first tuned in to watch the legendary physicist Dr. Carl Sagan as he presented his renowned TV series Cosmos. Some 34 years later and a long-awaited follow-up of the series has finally made its emergence from the stardust; the Cosmos finally gets a rebirth.

Sometimes the universe works in weird and wonderful ways. Perhaps this is epitomized by the new series of Cosmos, which is produced by the unlikely Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, who teams up with Neil Degrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan to bring about the revival.

This occurrence may not be as strange as it first seems. MacFarlane was attending a Hollywood lunch, in which scientists and producers got together to discuss scientific accuracy, and it’s presentation in films. It was here that MacFarlane met Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

After initial random discussion, Tyson proposed to MacFarlane that he back the new series, named Cosmos; A Spacetime Odyssey. He explained that the writer for the series is none other than Ann Druyan, the widow of Carl Sagan himself, who co-wrote the original Cosmos series.

Tyson himself is the director of Hayden Planetarium and is also involved in astrophysics research at the American Museum of Natural History. He also hosted NOVA ScienceNow, an educational science show, which aired on PBS.

MacFarlane agreed, paving the way for the series to make the air.

Tyson’s familiarity with the world of physics, and his previous experience in television, are keen indicators of his ability to fulfill the role of providing a rebirth for the Cosmos series. However, with the iconic Carl Sagan overshadowing him, it does beg the question; will he be able to come into his own?

Carl Sagan was not only a professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences, and Director of Planetary Studies at Cornell University; he was also a consultant to NASA, played a leading role in the American space program, and briefed the Apollo astronauts before they shot off to the moon. To put it mildly, he was quite a go-getter!

Sagan contributed to solving mysteries pertaining to the temperatures of Venus, the reddish haze on the moon Titan, and the seasonal changes on Mars. He was also involved extensively with the SETI projects, or the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence, proposing internal, schematic components of the UFO experience.

Sagan was extremely intelligent, knowledgeable, and well-respected. Combined with his approachable and accessible demonstrations of science, the late Carl Sagan demonstrated his award-winning contributions to science. Apart from anything else, this made his original Cosmos; A Personal Voyage absolutely unmissable television.

The question remains whether the new series, Cosmos; A Spacetime Journey can achieve the heights of Sagan, and provide as much educational entertainment as the original series which it follows on from. There is little doubt that Cosmos; A Spacetime Journey has all of the hallmarks of success. With an experienced presenter and physicist, a writer who knew Sagan and his work, probably better than anyone, and backing from a giant like Seth MacFarlane, the show looks promising.

The first episode recently aired and was greeted with positive response. The new special effects make for a beautifully stunning presentation of the universe, and Tyson has been congratulated for keeping the humanitarian passion. He was also complimented for his quest for wonder that made Sagan so mesmerizing to watch.

Perhaps the only obstacle the show is likely to encounter lies in the minds of the viewers. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is, after all, his own person and not Carl Sagan. The viewer should expect an entirely different version altogether.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Journey is, after all, a series born 34 years after the first, which is a relatively long time for a human, and a micro-nano-mili-second for a star. With the progression of recent science, such as dark matter, synthetic biology, and genetic technologies, the series is set to have plenty of original scope.

The similarities may lie in its aim to bring the mind-blowing mysteries of the entire Cosmos, not just to our front room, but into our psyche. Whether or not the two are comparable, they are both providers of a rare sort of television program; one which inspires its viewers, and opens their minds to the cosmos.

Having said all of that, the first episode does start with the line, “We are all made of star stuff”, an inspirational Carl Sagan quote that launched the original Cosmos legacy. Despite the nostalgia it inevitably brings about, Cosmos; A Spacetime Journey is the long awaited rebirth of a timeless series. Long live the legacy.

By Matthew Warburton

The Guardian
The Wire

You must be logged in to post a comment Login