As people know I absolutely love Carl Sagan, Cosmos for me is the greatest TV programme ever made and I was over the moon when I heard a few years ago that they were making a new one.
As it’s aired in the US and since I couldn’t wait until the 16th for it to be shown on National Geographic (and Sky1) I managed to just finish watching it. And what can I say about a show that I have built up in expectation? Mind blowingly brilliant!
It begins fittingly enough with Carl Sagan speaking the opening lines from the original version
“The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” followed by the original ship of the imagination. Then the baton is passed to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, standing on the same spot Sagan stood when he took us on his personal voyage.
Like the first episode we begin by journeying into deep space, starting with our home, through the solar system and out into the Milky Way, the local group, the Virgo cluster and the observable universe, where it departed from the original was the introduction of the multiverse theory and the stunning CGI. During the voyage we passed the Voyager 1 probe, the music of Blind Willie Johnson playing into the void
Following the grand tour NDT tells us through an animated segment the sad story of Giordano Bruno a monk who theorised that the stars were other suns, each with their own planets and life despite stating his ideas did not contradict scripture, Bruno was tried by the Roman inquisition and burned at the stake for heresy, in the show he is shown escaping the bonds of earth and even as he was being led to his death his head was in the stars.
“I cleave the heavens and soar to the infinite.
And while I rise from my own globe to others
And penetrate ever further through the eternal field,
That which others saw from afar, I leave far behind me.”
Like the first episode we deal with the cosmic calendar, updated with the new CGI that is becoming the main focus of the show (while Sagan himself was the focus of his) this is the part that is always mind blowing. By putting the 13 billion years of our universe into one year and realising that the dinosaurs died on December 30, and all of human history happened in the last 14 seconds of December 31. During this segment while dealing with the Big Bang, and how all matter in the universe was created in that moment NDT utters the immortal line about how we are star stuff. This is one of many quotes of Sagans that permeate the show, in a way it’s Carl Sagan talking to us through NDT. When explaining the 14 seconds of Humanity he paraphrases the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ speech about everyone, every king, queen and migration being in that spot.
The ending was beautiful, NDT takes from his bag Carl’s diary for 1975 and under December 20 this is written:
At the time deGrasse Tyson was just a 17-year-old kid from the Bronx with dreams of being a scientist, but Sagan had invited him to spend a Saturday with him in Ithaca at Cornell University, after seeing his application to attend University there. He toured their labs there, and Sagan gave him a book, “The Cosmic Collection” and inscribed it “to a future astronomer”
NDT recounts how he became the scientist and communicator he is by reminiscing about the encounter:
“At the end of the day, he drove me back to the bus station. The snow was falling harder. He wrote his phone number, his home phone number, on a scrap of paper. And he said, “If the bus can’t get through, call me. Spend the night at my home, with my family.”I already knew I wanted to become a scientist, but that afternoon I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become. He reached out to me and to countless others. Inspiring so many of us to study, teach, and do science. Science is a cooperative enterprise, spanning the generations.”
The cooperative enterprise sentence is lifted from the original in which Carl links the works of Galileo, and Percival Lowell to the work of the Viking project and one of his friends who had recently died.
“”Science is a collaborative enterprise, spanning the generations. When it permits us to see the far side of some new horizon, we remember those who prepared the way – seeing for them also.”
so Neil DeGrasse Tyson is peering at the horizon, ready to go again.