Past & Present
Following on from the hugely successful Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Possible Worlds is the long-awaited sequel to that 13-part series, one that recaptures the magic, wonder and awe of our solar system as we return to the ship of imagination once more. As a huge fan of the original series and the rebooted effort, this delayed sequel finally sees Neil deGrasse Tyson pick up the pieces left behind from that previous series – and Carl Sagan’s original vision – for two episodes that keep things reasonably grounded for a look at humankind and our innate desire to explore the cosmos.
Episode 1 of Cosmos: Possible worlds starts us off with two simple, thought-provoking questions. How far will human-kind advance by the next millennia? And what does our future hold as a species? It’s a fascinating idea, one that certainly gets the imagination flowing over what we could expect to see in our utopian or dystopian future. Riding along in the ship of imagination, Carl takes us back to the Cosmic Calendar again, and subsequently the very edge of the Earth’s life-span, to the evolution of humankind itself.
The rest of the first episode essentially celebrates us as a species and what makes humankind so special. From the early neanderthals to the first ever settlements in Çatalhüyük, Neil explores these ideas across a colourful, ever-changing backdrop of visuals that help to flesh out these concepts and give a beautiful visual aid to the ideas and material presented.
All of this builds up to the crescendo of the first episode, one that ends on a somewhat sombre note as we see the threat of extinction thanks to the endangered nature of bees and how the Halls Of Extinction could nail another coffin in place, this one for humankind, if we don’t change our ways.
Thankfully, this sci-fi series doesn’t dwell too much on the negative, and as the episode closes out we return to the concept of Çatalhüyük once more as humankind takes to the skies in a more utopian future and looks back on Earth in the hope for finding greener pastures in the far reaches of the universe.
Episode 2 of Cosmos by comparison asks further questions to get our imagination going once more. Are there other ships out there looking for life? Where will we go when the Earth isn’t a garden for life? Will we make for the stars too?
From here, we jump forward in time and see the effect of our Sun heating up and what this means for our solar system. In order to find a long lease of life, Neil uses examples of early tribal villagers crossing the ocean in search of new lands, using birds and “messages written in the clouds” to navigate the worlds.
Using this story as a basis for courage, we skip ahead to theoretical ideas for ships to fly through space before envisioning a dreamy future of humankind riding light waves to touch down in unknown locales. All of this ends with a tribute to Carl Sagan himself as he talks about travelling the stars where the episode ends.
Last year presented one of the best space documentaries in The Planets. This comprehensive, well-researched and incredibly in-depth documentary series essentially tackles a lot of the same material the first two episodes of Cosmos has done here but done so with a lot more finesse and detailed analysis. Where Cosmos really shines is with its awe-inspiring visuals and imaginative voyage across our universe and aside from a quick trip to two black holes colliding together, a lot of the grounded, close-to-home material of our solar system feels like well-trodden ground.
Still, it’s not all bad and Cosmos: Possible Worlds does have the upper-hand over Brian Cox’s BBC Two series in making this show incredibly accessible to absolutely everyone – from kids up to grandparents. The series itself (so far at least) feels a little too light on the meat of the subjects though, with sparse new material for space fans to really cling to and build knowledge from. Whether the future episodes change this or not remains to be seen but Cosmos is a visual treat nonetheless and a welcome return to the small screen.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When This Season Concludes!