TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 11

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 11, "The Immortals"As the new Cosmos approaches its final episode, it's about time that the series started looking back on the ground it's covered and drawing some larger lessons. This episode accomplished that, and while it treads into more speculative territory than earlier outings, I think that's appropriate.But first, there was a scene about someone I'd never heard of: Enheduanna, a Sumerian high priestess who holds the honor of being the most … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 10

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 10, "The Electric Boy"Up till now, Cosmos has used historical sequences as an adjunct to the science, just as a way of giving credit to the men and women who brought us the discoveries we now take for granted. But this time, the writers made the interesting and daring choice to make the entire episode a historical story told through animation. This forecloses the possibility of the firework visuals that have been Cosmos' stock in trade, and I think it's … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 1

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 1, "Standing Up In the Milky Way"When I first heard that Carl Sagan's Cosmos was being rebooted, I was thrilled. As much as I loved the original, even the best science series inevitably becomes dated sooner rather than later, as our knowledge advances. And this was a great opportunity to see how modern special effects, which are light-years ahead of where they were in the original, could be used for scientific storytelling. But when I heard the new series … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 9

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 9, "The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth"At the beginning of its run, Cosmos tended to alternate excellent episodes with mediocre ones, which made me wonder if that would be the pattern for the whole series. But I'm happy to say that the show has hit its stride: the last three episodes, including this one, have been outstanding, and in my opinion this was the best of the three.We started out back on the Cosmic Calendar, this time in mid-December, the … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 8

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 8, "Sisters of the Sun"In earlier episodes, Cosmos has conspicuously missed opportunities to highlight the scientific contributions of women. I found that all the more perplexing because it's co-written by Ann Druyan, whom we know is attuned to feminist issues. In fact, it's because of her that Cosmos even has that title: Carl Sagan originally wanted to call it "Man in the Cosmos", until she persuaded him otherwise by pointing out the sexist … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 7

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 7, "The Clean Room"There may be some fields of science that have absolutely no political implications, but they're few and far between. Scientists stand on the front lines of humanity's advancing knowledge, and as such, they're often the first people to glimpse a looming danger, one that can only be avoided by making changes in society. And when that happens, they're inevitably faced with a choice between disinterested investigation and political … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 6

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 6, "Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still"After the last two strong episodes, there was bound to be a clunker sooner or later, and I'm sorry to say this was it. Although it elaborated on a theme of the microscopic, atomic and sub-atomic worlds, it lacked a central narrative thread to tie together all the different stories it presented.It started out promisingly enough, with Tyson taking his miniaturized spaceship of the imagination into a dewdrop to show us … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 5

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 5, "Hiding in the Light"With computer graphics getting cheaper and better every year, every new TV show and movie has to grapple with the question of how much is too much. That's no less true for a hard-science series like Cosmos than it is for a sci-fi drama. There's always the temptation to put more flashy visuals on screen just because you can, and the technology we have now makes it possible to show razzle-dazzle that would have been inconceivable in … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 4

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 4, "A Sky Full of Ghosts"Any science show faced with time constraints has to strike a balance between breadth and depth. The process of science is always laborious and not always interesting; but if you don't show it at all, it leaves the impression that the results just dropped out of the sky like a religious revelation. The second episode of Cosmos felt overstuffed with detail; the third was just right. This one, in true Goldilocks fashion, felt a … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 3

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 3, "When Knowledge Conquered Fear"I wrote that last week's episode felt overstuffed, trying to cover a vast amount of territory in just 45 minutes of TV. This one did much better in that regard. The writing was tightly focused, telling a central story that wove throughout the episode, and using that story to provide branching-off points. This was a nearly flawless example of how science writing should be done.The central story, told mostly through … [Read more...]