Back for a second episode, The Planets returns with another fascinating look at our beautiful and dangerous solar system. With an intimate look at our two sister planets, Earth and Mars, Brian Cox narrates us through the history and science of these planets whilst casting a glimpse at our potentially entwined future together in the solar system.
We begin with a look at the topography and history of The Red Planet. Over 4 billion years ago, Mars was a watery world and a far cry from the barren, choked desert it is now. The Mariner 4 mission in 1965 caught the first glimpse of this rocky planet before 1975’s Viking project captured the first colour photo of the martian landscape. Of course, this leads us up to the most recent mission, Curiosity, and the most audacious attempt at studying Mars ever known to man. Through the use of a sophisticated Rover, there’s only one goal in mind – study the watery history of the planet.
Boasting huge valleys seen from space and the largest volcano in the universe, Olympus Mons, Mars is a beautiful and incredibly alien planet. Yet, as the Curiosity shows, 2% of the soil on the planet is still made up of water, even after all this time. As Brian excitedly talks us through what this means for us and Mars in general, we cut back to 4 billion years ago to see the watery world in all its glory and how it evaporated and became the dusty wasteland we know it as today. Interestingly, 4 billions years ago, Earth was an unrecognizable alien too, made up of acidic lakes and a thick, stormy atmosphere.
Across the episode we see the evolution of both planets, pushed to breaking point thanks to a cataclysmic event called “The Late Bombardment.” As Brian Cox talks us through the science and the advanced chemical and physical characteristics of both planets, this leads us up nicely to the future plans for Mars going forward.
NASA is currently planning its first manned mission to Mars. With the plans of this in full swing, Brian cox predicts there will be martians in his lifetime stepping foot on Mars. It’ll be us; human beings. It’s a tantalizing prospect no doubt and if life is found there, in whatever form, it’ll answer that age old question of whether we’re really alone or not in the universe.
The Planets returns for another fascinating and incredibly interesting episode, one that takes full advantage of Brian Cox’s poetic explanations to talk us through the history and science of Earth and Mars. Armed with an intense musical score, very reminisce of the video game series Mass Effect, The Planets does a good job keeping things feeling suitably epic and intense throughout the episode. There’s a good blend of archival footage and CGI shots of the planets too and some of the establishing shots from space are really striking and beautiful.
If you were a fan of the first episode, you’re sure to enjoy this week’s episode too. With more science and beautifully thought provoking material to chew over, Brian Cox brings this show to life in the best possible way. With the promise of exploring the gas giants next, The Planets leaves things on a suitably exciting note. With a respectful tone and a broad appeal thanks to his simple explanations, The Planets is an interesting documentary series, one that I have an easy time recommending and a humbling reminder of just how small we human beings are in the grand scheme of the universe.