In the beginning, many theories suggest that there was a big bang. From that event, it morphed into the planets, moons, stars and life as we know it. However, there is much that is not known in the cosmos and even more to explore. The Universe is entering its fourth season on the History Channel. After forty-four successful episodes, can they come back with twelve more interesting and intricate looks at space: the final frontier?
To explain the show, The Universe takes a subject in each of its twelve 4th season episodes and then usually focuses on an important facet of that which it will spend the bulk of the episode on. They talk to various cosmologists, astronomers, and astrophysicists who offer different ideas of the phenomenon or theories. They use CGI recreations of space and real world situations to simulate the events and bring up some possible conclusions that could result.
To illustrate this, let’s take the first episode: Death Stars. Death Stars can be described as stars that are about to enter their final cycle of life and go supernova. This supernova in turn can unleash massive gamma ray bursts or GRB. These GRB have the potential to reach many thousands of light years away and severely disrupt or end life as we know it wherever it would strike.
The episode focuses on one star in particular: the WR104, which is 8000 light years away from our planet and slowly dying. Furthermore, when it goes supernova it could emit a GRB which in turn could be in the direction of the Earth. This would most likely destroy life as we know it. Some scientists offer up additional theories and one of them uses a fire hose and some firemen to illustrate the splatter effect of a GRB burst.
The latter part of the show also goes into death star galaxies. It gives the specific example of 3C321 which is a system of two galaxies rotating around each other. The theory is that the formation could create a super massive black hole at the center. They finish off the episode talking about another couple of death stars which are a little closer to home named Carinae and Betelgeuse.
The show is very informative. They present a lot of fact and involve the work of many established scientists and astronomers. The best tool they have to bring this information across is the gorgeous CGI work that they use in presentation. This shows planets, stars and illustrates what happens when various celestial phenomena such as supernovas or rings around the planet. However, the main problem with this show is that they have a large case of Hollywood fever.
By large case of Hollywood fever, I mean the show tends to sensationalize just about everything. Furthermore, when they sensationalize everything they tend to implicate that the planet Earth is going to be vaporized or eradicated of life. Keep in mind, that most of these ideas are simply theories or things that have a small percentage of happening. The time frame also is never mentioned. It could be 100,000 years away and this show will still go about it as if it was going to happen in the near future.
There is also the issue that they make a mockery of the production by using expressions that are supposed to incite fear. “Messenger of Death” was one of my favorites. There are even archers igniting a target with a fire arrow to demonstrate how serious they are. This isn’t an isolated episode either: the Day the Moon Was Gone and the blatantly obvious 10 Ways to Destroy the Earth are simply more of the same propaganda.
They even find ways to insert some doom and gloom into the most mundane episodes.
The Hunt for Ringed Planets finds time to deviate from their discussion of Saturn and talk about how Earth’s own ring (communication satellites) could potentially throw the world into chaos. If somebody was to take this whole manner seriously with their presentation, they would probably hurl themselves in front of the next bus. Or, if they were supposed to take some of this seriously, they would probably miss it because they are too busy laughing.
The video is shown in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen @ 1080i. As one would expect, this is the strongest part of the package. The CGI is gorgeous and would certainly be borderline demo quality if it weren’t for the talky parts from the various scientists. The real life scenes are less than desired as they seem heavy with grain and various imperfections. However, that is a minor quibble in an overall awesome CGI interpretation of the planets and other celestial beings.
The audio is presented in 2.0 PCM Uncompressed English. The opening theme booms but then the show becomes a massive talk fest. The dialog is clear and there are no dialects that present any problems in understanding what they are talking about. The show does move into the occasional special effect in coordination with the CGI, but these are mostly swishes and sounds they would conceive to be part of outer space. English subtitles are also provided.
- Meteors: Fire in the Sky 9:32: This goes over meteors and what particles they are often made up of. A few specific meteor fragments are highlighted like ALH 84001. This was a meteor that hit Mars and spun off towards the earth. It was later found to contain single celled micro-organisms.
- Comets: Prophets of Doom 3:18: It’s doom, doom I tell you! Information about comets and how dangerous they could be if they come a little too close to a planet.
When I received word that I was going to review this set, I was hoping that it would be as good as some of the reviews I read of earlier seasons. I’m sad to say, I have been disappointed by the proceedings. Too much of the time, they sensationalize the most microscopic of theories. If somebody were to take much of this literally, they might think that a harbinger of death is right around the corner.
It should be about science, exploration, and the wonderment of space. It shouldn’t be Space: How to Kill The Earth in 12 easy steps. The disc is decent, the video is easily the best part and the audio does have its bright moments. I personally can’t recommend this set, but if you have watched it on the History Channel, you will pick this up here.
The Day the Moon Was Gone
It Fell from Space
The Hunt for Ringed Planets
10 Ways to Destroy Earth
The Search for Cosmic Clusters
Pulsars & Quasars
Science Fiction / Science Fact