DVD review: “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” (2020)

“Cosmos: Possible Worlds ” (2020)

Television/Documentary

Thirteen Episodes

Written & Directed by:  Ann Druyan and Brannon Braga

Featuring: Neil deGrasse Tyson

Ann Druyan: “A world that tiny cannot possibly be the center of a cosmos of all that is, let alone the sole focus of its creator. The pale blue dot is a silent rebuke to the fundamentalist, the nationalist, the militarist, the polluter—to anyone who does not put above all other things the protection of our little planet and the life that it sustains in the vast cold darkness.”

Recently released on DVD, “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” (2020), is the follow-up to the television series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” (2014), which followed the original “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” (1980) series presented by Carl Sagan on PBS, which was a passion project for him. The series is presented by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson who has been one of the constants as a kind of educator who feels like he can offer his own point of view on everything from his own specialist field, science to movies, sports and politics. Now there is nothing actually wrong with this but when watching “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” I could not help but feel that there was too much input by the scientist and not enough from people who know how to put a television show together, it is all navel gazing, information that seems to be random as well as no real (obvious) structure. For me this is not as big a deal as it might be for others who require coherence and structure.

If I were going to describe this new season of ‘Cosmos’ it would be reactionary, which may seem a little odd and out of place for a show about the Universe, mankind and for this season in particular, the future. Another word I might use is political, that is because “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” is thumbing its nose at least half of the US, as well as the White House and Trump in particular, if you don’t think is true then you are missing a larger point of the series itself.

The reason for the two words reactionary and political is that it takes aim at the right wing, more specifically those that support Trump and those that believe that anyone espousing factual knowledge might be part of the liberal, fake media. To compound that the people behind the show have made it difficult to understand from an episodic perspective which I believe is hilarious. The producers and writers have eschewed any need for recaps, instead deciding to not only move the series forward but the narrative as well, which again may confound expectations, indeed possibly polarising opinions, which this show has now done.

Each of the episodes integrates state-of-the-art VFX, stylized animation and dramatic reenactments to carry viewers deep into the future. It is possible to over stylise a show which this one threatens to do at every moment especially when some narration seemingly has nothing to do with the special effects.

While there is a focus on the distant future, which is presented as optimistic at the expense of the present day. So much of the animation, narration, and sci-fi information is concentrated spent on examples of interplanetary and interstellar travel, colonization for the human race. There is comparably little given over to the current possible extinction event’s, the devastating effects of climate change, or the endless division of classes and bloody battles over dwindling resources. However after the year that has been this narrative is a fresh breath of air that should at least assist people in seeing over their own horizon. There is so much that is not needed in our media, an example are television shows and movies about pandemics, political unrest and anything else that is reflective directly of our times, that is why narratives seperate from these endless tropes succeed and sometimes cannot be understood in their time. Because I can tell you now there are no superheroes or alternate realities or aliens coming to save us, we are it, like it or not.

In saying all of that this is a show that requires perseverance and the full attention of its audience, it also asks something as well, that is go and read, look up some of the ideas, concepts and theories that are thrown at you, but do this after the episode. Dont be afraid to not understand and stop the programme while you go and sort out what is occurring on-screen in front of you.

For me this is a must buy and fits alongside the first two seasons, it is just a little harder going thats all, accept the challenge and hop for more. 

Episodes:

Ladder to the Stars: An adventure spanning billions of years into the evolution of life and consciousness. A visit to a 100,000-year-old laboratory. The story of the change in life-style that radically altered human existence and the life of the heretic who found god in the book of nature, opening our way to the stars.

The Fleeting Grace of the Habitable Zone: There is no refuge from change in the cosmos. There will come a time in the life of the Sun when Earth will no longer be a home for us. The story of our ancestors who rose to a comparable challenge and a long-term vision of our future on other worlds.

Lost City of Life: A new vision of genesis at the bottom of the blood red sea of the infant Earth. And the story of the man who found the first clues to life’s beginning in a green jewel. As he searched for life’s origin, he risked his own, daring to toy with his Nazi tormentors.

Vavilov: In the first half of the 20th century pioneering geneticist Nikolai Vavilov traveled 5 continents assembling a treasury of the worlds seeds. He dreamed that science could be the means to end hunger. His refusal to tell a scientific lie cost him his life. The heroism of his colleagues and its direct impact on your life is one of the most stirring stories in the history of science.

The Cosmic Connectome: A voyage of discovery through the evolution of consciousness with stops in ancient Greece, a visit to the largest life form on Earth, into the poignant dream of an abandoned orphan that opened the way to our understanding of the architecture of thought and beyond to a vision of a galactic network of thought.

The Man of a Trillion Worlds: A child lies on the rug of a tenement dreaming of interstellar adventures. At the dawn of the space age, a young Carl Sagan’s career is forged in the clash of his mentors, two scientific titans. Sagan goes on realize his childhood dreams, to carry their research forward and communicate its significance to the whole world.

The Search for Intelligent Life on Earth: A revelation of the hidden underground network that is a collaboration of four kingdoms of life, and a true first contact story between humans and beings who communicate in a symbolic language and have maintained a representative democracy for many tens of millions of years.

The Sacrifice of Cassini: The mysterious untold story of the scientist who figured out how to go the Moon while fighting for his life in a WWI trench. He wrote a letter to fifty years in the future. It made the Apollo Mission possible. And the saga of the twenty-year long odyssey of a robotic explorer ordered to commit suicide on another world.

Magic Without Lies: In the counterintuitive realm of quantum mechanics, light can be two contradictory things, and somehow – no one knows how – an unseen observer can alter the nature of reality. The man who stumbled on this hole in reality and the still- unfolding technological revolution that it made possible.

A Tale of Two Atoms: Two atoms from different parts of the universe meet on a small planet. How a deadly embrace between science and state altered the fate of the world, and a gripping cautionary tale of others who grew used to living in the shadow of grave danger until it killed them all except one.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: From the birth of the devil in ancient Persia where a beloved family dog becomes a seething beast to a searing story of saintliness among macaque monkeys, an exploration of human potential for change. It concludes with the story of how one of history’s greatest monsters was transformed into one of its shining lights.

Coming of Age in the Anthropocene: What kind of world can a child born in 2020 expect to grow up in? And when did our slide into planet-wide environmental destruction begin? The possible world that awaits our baby girl into her 20s: one darkened by our refusal to face the real and mounting challenges we face but concluding with a message of hope.

Seven Wonders of the New World: The young Carl Sagan and Neil Tyson first discovered their passion for science at the NY World’s Fairs of the past. We visit the dazzling Pavilions of the 2039 NY World’s Fair, where problems we currently think intractable have been plausibly solved through public commitment and scientific imagination. And our baby is a woman now, with a baby of her own and a future bright with possibilities.

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