Every child has faced one relentless question about their future, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Those of that looked up and could think of nothing more extraordinary than exploring the little balls that light up the infinite darkness of the sky, said “When I grow up, I'm going to get on a spaceship and travel the universe.” Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey reignites that curious, awestruck kid in you. Presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the 13-episode science documentary series is about the most amazing scientific discoveries and achievements of mankind in a way that anyone can understand.
The show is a sequel to Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, a 1980 television series presented by Carl Sagan. This 'original' Cosmos is considered to be one of the milestones for scientific documentaries and was the most widely watched series in the history of American public television until The Civil War (1990), so the sequel had a lot to live up to. For those who weren't alive during the 1980s, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a great show for anyone who wants to know more about the universe without a lot of effort. With Seth MacFarlane from Family Guy as the executive producer and visual effects from Rainer Gombos of HBO's Game of Thrones, it's a visual spectacle that shows grandeur of space coming alive without distorting the quality of the information presented.
The show starts off with Tyson boarding the “Ship of the Imagination” as he invites us to join him on his spacetime adventures. This ship can bend the very fabric of space and time; travel through black holes and back to a time when Earth only had one big continent. Tyson explains a variety of scientific concepts ranging from the origin of life to the lifecycle of stars. Each 45 minute episode has a central theme, many subtopics and contains animated stories leading up to scientific discoveries by 'heroes of science' relating to that theme. These animations cut the monotone of having to always watch Tyson talk. His narration feels a bit overdone; at times, he speaks as though he's feigning interest in an attempt to engage a particularly inattentive four year old. But at other times, it sounds like sheer poetry.
A definite positive is visual effects, from displaying the predicted merging of the Milky Way with our neighboring galaxy to taking apart the sedimentary layers of the Grand Canyon, there are definitely moments that leave you stunned at the power of technology. But, the primary criticism against Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is that it lacks the 'wow'-factor that Cosmos: A Personal Voyage had. But with the advancement in technology and current availability of information, it is apparent that being 'wow' in 2014 is substantially more difficult than being 'wow' in 1980.
The show also includes matters outside the immediate scientific realm, such as environmental issues, gender-bias and religion. It brings forth scientists we've never heard of because they were women and tells a story of a multinational company that had their own scientists feeding the public false information in order to increase profits – problems that still persist in today's world.
Cosmos provides reliable information concisely and efficiently. The show doesn't answer complex astrophysics questions that would bore its audience; rather it provides knowledge on the fundamental concepts of our cosmos. It's a show you can sit back and enjoy but you'll be a bit smarter when each episode is over and think a little more deeply about your existence. Watch this because it's a break from the drama on television and the drama of the universe is far more exciting. Although, I wouldn't recommend watching more than one episode per day!