This Sunday a staple of American culture makes a return to the screen, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey marks the revival of the legendary Carl Sagan show at a never more relevant time.
Hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and produced by Sagan’s original creative collaborators, writer/executive producer Ann Druyan and astronomer Steven Soter, this update has gotten a major pop culture signal boost from executive producer Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad). These powers have combined to bring to the screen a 13-part series that will serve as a successor to the Emmy Award and Peabody Award-winning original series.
To see the first episode in an audience composed of science geeks who have eagerly anticipated the show was the best possible circumstance. We board a spaceship of imagination with Neil deGrasse Tyson piloting us through the history of humanity’s experience with science.
In Cosmos, Tyson and his ship become a vessel that’s more Ms.Frizzle and the Magic School Bus than lengthy lecture. With the use of special effects and real scientific images we are given the opportunity to see our universe in ways that the eyes cannot. No, seriously, watching it is like we’re the kids on the Magic School Bus but with a better school budget – it’s a cinematic experience on a blockbuster level. Everything is rendered realistically as if you’re with Tyson as you traverse through the history science to planets, moments of discovery and of breakthroughs. His guidance as you move throughout space and time is utterly captivating, entertaining and funny in ways that everyone can understand.
You’re taken out of Earth to our neighborhood of galaxy clusters (which before seeing this, I could not even fathom what that would look like) and back down to surf our microscopic origins (Which again, couldn’t even imagine). You almost want the show to be screened in a 3D format in a Star Tours-eque vehicle with motion and Tyson as the Captain. It’d be an awesome ride to fly through Saturn’s rings alongside the snowball sized moons that compose them.
The spectacle of it all will attract anyone and inspire a curiosity that may have previously not been there. The way it’s all laid out is so stunning – you won’t want to blink. As you watch the recreation of the Big Bang on the Cosmic Calendar Tyson stands on, you can’t help but feel like you’re there.
The animations that present the history of science within human civilization, evoke the a style that isn’t afraid to push boundaries to reveal uncomfortable truths – something MacFarlane isn’t a stranger to, that fitfully compliments Druyan’s desire to not sugarcoat the truth.
Harnessing the power of animation as a medium for storytelling, Cosmos handles heavy historical subject matters tastefully but not tamely. We watch the story of 16th-century monk and astronomer Giordano Bruno, who was struck with the idea that perhaps the Earth rotated around the Sun and not the other way around – something that the Catholic Church looked down upon with extreme punishment. They tackled the persecution of early believers in the infinite of possibilities science with imagery of the Inquisition’s torture methods that were deeply harrowing but not graphic. It’s reminiscent of the animations we watched as kids that weren’t subdued with dark matters (like Mufasa dying in Lion King) but will definitely be ingrained in the young minds watching.
And they totally get away with it.
Don’t worry, that doesn’t speak for all of the animated segments. We do get lush visuals that give us gorgeous exposition, like this one of the history of communication.
Overall, the best part of Cosmos is you don’t have to be good at science or math in order to to explore alongside people who are pioneers in those fields. Neil deGrasse Tyson hosting is fitting simply because he’s always promoted that anyone could be a science enthusiast by presenting it in a comprehensible and entertaining way. And so Tyson, together with the original series producers and one of the biggest producers of pop culture (MacFarlane), are a powerful combination to translate the complex to be understood by everyone. Not only is it understood but presented in a way for it to be enjoyed by all. This is paramount to viewers.
With Cosmos, the knowledge is accessible, fun to retain and easy to talk about. People will feel more comfortable to socialize about it and ask questions. It’s a tribute to Sagan’s legacy and a welcome contribution to everyone that wants to SCIENCE!
COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY premieres Sunday, March 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on multiple U.S. FOX networks, including FOX and National Geographic Channel. Beginning the following week, all-new episodes of COSMOS will air Sundays (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX and Mondays (10:00-11:00 PM ET/PT) on the National Geographic Channel.