Like Planet Earth meets Men in Black
"Science is all around us, and science can be not only in our minds, but in our heart" -Neil deGrasse Tyson
I was able to attend an advanced screening for the premiere episode of Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey at NY's Museum of Natural History. This 13-episode docu-series is a reboot of Carl Sagan's classic series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The show has updated with modern technology and a new host: the one and only Neil deGrasse Tyson (arguably the biggest celebrity in astronomy). Having seen the first episode, it's clear the Cosmos will educate and entertain both adults and children if they have even slight slightest interest in the universe. It is part science lesson, part history lesson, and part visual poetry all set to a soaring musical score and stunning images.
Cosmos uses a combination of hyperrealistic CGI, old-fashioned animation, and live-action footage to take the viewer on a journey through the wonders of the universe. The most impressive aspect of the show is its scope, as it shows us our past, present, and future, zooms in on microscopic molecules, and zooms way out to explore the multiverse (made up of billions of universes).
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an excellent host, a genius with a a talent for communicating complex theories in a way that everyone can understand, so that they can share in his passion. The only times when the show faltered, in my opinion, where the sequences where Tyson narrates from inside a bizarre ship flying through space. The strange spaceship is not just extraneous, but it distracts from the real marvels that I would rather focus on. I have also previously seen the concept of a "Cosmic Calender" (looking at the history of the universe as if it occurred over the span of one year), but it was still interesting to watch with Tyson narrating and backed by fantastic images.
Moments such as exploring the concept of a multiverse, and Tyson telling his inspiring backstory and paying tribute to Carl Sagan elevated this show from good to great. It can be cheesy, but it is consistently interesting and aesthetically pleasing, and at times, even profoundly moving.
After the screening, there was a Q and A which included Neil deGrasse Tyson and executive producer Seth MacFarlane (Yes, creator of Family Guy). MacFarlane talked about the goal of balancing science and entertainment, to which Tyson replied: "I'm entertained by the universe every day of my life. Something can be entertaining because it's inspiring". When asked what fact most interests him about space, Tyson said: "The universe never makes things in ones; planets, suns, universes. If you follow this to its logical conclusion, as we did in the show, perhaps our multiverse is just one of many." Seth Macfarlane replied: "You just blew my f***ing mind."
Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey premieres this Sunday, March 9, at 9pm on FOX.