Monday, March 10, 2014

The New Cosmos

Last night the new version of the late Carl Sagan's classic Cosmos aired. I grew up on the first one - it, and Carl Sagan's books, were a huge influence on me. I think Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan and (oddly) Seth MacFarlane have done Sagan proud with their reboot.

The "spaceship of the imagination" is still present, but it's lost its dandelion shape (which I loved). I think the new shape must have some significance but I imagine I'll have to wait a few episodes to find out what. Host Tyson doesn't quite have Sagan's charisma, but he strikes the right tone, as does Alan Silvestri's score, which captures the appropriate uplifting, triumphant sort of feel I think this show tries to evoke.

Excellent use of clever animation stands in for what would have been dramatic reenactments in the first series, and this will rise or fall on how the viewer likes the animation style. I liked it - especially a segment showing the evolution of humanity through animated cave paintings.

This first episode was more of an overview, a trumpet-call announcing that it's time to get going again with Sagan's dream. A segment on Giordano Bruno got more detailed attention. The episode also focused on our "address in the cosmos," and speculated on the existence of the multiverse - an infinity of universes like ours.

The biggest champ in this whole thing is, for me, MacFarlane, known primarily for being the creator of The Family Guy and a slew of other shows on the Fox network. MacFarlane was instrumental in funding Cosmos, proving he's got more to do than make mean-spirited jokes about - well, pretty much everyone. In fact, Druyan, Sagan's widow, said MacFarlane and Sagan would have been "kindred spirits." MacFarlane also provided funding for many of Sagan's personal papers and whatnot to be processed and included in the Library of Congress. He's a believer, and more multidimensional than his comedy indicates.

I'll keep an eye on this series. Did I like it as much as the original? Not quite. But it's not a fair question, either. This show isn't a remake, but a continuation, of Sagan's Cosmos. This is hammered home when, at the end of the first episode, Tyson briefly eulogizes Sagan, recaps his scientific and cultural influence, and tells a touching story of how, when Tyson was a 17-year-old kid from the Bronx, Sagan befriended him and influenced him to become an astronomer.

This gets to the core of Sagan's gift, at least as I see it - the ability to speak to you across a television set or through the printed page and make you feel like he's speaking directly to you, and that what he's saying isn't just interesting in an academic sense, but that it matters to your life, right here, right now.

I say the new Cosmos hit a home rum in its first episode, and I hope it influences a whole new generation the way it influenced mine.

1 comment:

  1. I did not like the first episode very much, I don't know what I was expecting. The others have been informative. I will continue to watch them.