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Mar. 9th, 2014 @ 10:55 pm Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - Part 1
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Spiketail Hatchling
To the tune of: Vangelis
COSMOS! I've been so excited for this for the past month or so. Tonight, I watched Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage before the big premiere so that I could do a little side-by-side.

Let me begin: this isn't a straightforward recap, but it does seem to be following the same general course. In the 1980 series, Carl Sagan started with a great big picture of the known universe and came to the Earth in the Spaceship of the Imagination. He introduced a lot of things slowly for an audience who may happened in on a lazy, Sunday afternoon. Carl has a very distinct voice that's slow but animated. His episode went on to the discovery of the diameter of the Earth around 500BC and explored the ancient library in Alexandria.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Cosmos begins from the inside and works its way out. He constructs humanity's address by visiting the Earth and the local solar system, then the galaxy as a whole, then the local group (briefly) before examining, quickly, the known universe. The pace is faster and the graphics are arguably better. His Ship of the Imagination is arguably better thought-out, but the pacing of the show doesn't give the audience time to really feel it. His pilot's main story is about the trial of Giordano Bruno— who Carl mentions later in his series— but this felt a little out of place for a pilot episode. It made me question the show's organization from the top-down.

Both series had a "cosmic calendar" sequence. The graphics were better, of course, in Tyson's Cosmos, but everything was portrayed slightly larger (the size of a living room vs. the size of a football field) in Sagan's. To Tyson's credit, he mentioned a few more dates that gave some interesting perspective to the age of the Milky Way, the sun, moon, and stars. We also got to see tiktaalik, which made my biologist-girlfriend quite pleased.

I read this article beforehand. The author says that Tyson reading from a script does him a real disservice. I tend to agree. Carl Sagan was the main writer for the original series, and when he spoke to the audience, it felt like he was sharing a story with us. Tyson, when he's on screen, carries the appropriate exuberance, but I found his narration a little cloying at other times. In his defense, he did have a rather touching tribute to Sagan at the end of the show.

I can't say definitively which series is better. Sagan and Tyson are different people. Sagan's series spent a lot of time and money hiring extras to portray people of historical importance where Tyson's opted for animators to help separate the past from the future. Sagan evoked the audience's imagination and put a heavy emphasis on the question of life elsewhere in the universe, where Tyson stuck to the facts and really tantalized viewers about things to come.

This didn't overwhelmingly blast me in the chest the way the original pilot did, but I'm really curious to see where the new series is going to go from here. Previews suggest it's going to follow Sagan's "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue" where they discuss evolution. I'm still psyched.