Case Number 20841: Small Claims Court


History Channel // 2010 // 376 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // March 5th, 2011

The Charge

Explore the edges of the unknown.

The Case

The Universe is back in all its infinite wonder and splendor, entertaining viewers with fascinating topics, dazzling visuals and just enough science to keep parents and educators happy. All eight episodes of The Universe: The Complete Season Five are included on two discs as follows:

Disc One
* "7 Wonders of the Solar System"
* "Mars: The New Evidence"
* "Magnetic Storm"
* "Time Travel"

Disc Two
* "Secrets of the Space Probes"
* "Asteroid Attack"
* "Total Eclipse"
* "Dark Future of the Sun"

For whatever reason, The Universe: The Complete Season Five only included eight episodes, while there were as many as 18 in previous seasons. Could it be that the series' producers are running out of content ideas? That would certainly seem unlikely, as one would think there's a nearly infinite array of topics and concepts to cover with The Universe as your source material. It may just be that the series has lost the head of steam and inspiration that created it and we're starting to see its curtain call.

As some of my Verdict colleagues and I have said in past reviews of The Universe, the series has seemed to rely too much on "sky is falling" hype in the subject matter, instead of allowing the science to speak and entertain for itself. The most refreshing thing about this season is that there seems to be more science and less fiction; maybe they finally got the message and decided to rein it in? There are still moments of speculation and wonder, but this season features far less tabloid sensationalism and focuses much more on delivering amazing facts and scientific content that is, for the most part, easily digestible for the average viewer. Yes, they're still using titles like "Asteroid Attack," but that may just have been to catch the wandering eyes of could-be viewers cruising their PVR listings? Another strong feature of this season is that, while dedicated viewers will immediately recognize familiar faces like Alex Filippenko, Laura Danly, and fan-favorite Amy Mainzer in the pool of experts this season, there are also new experts weighing in with subject-matter expertise. These experts, both familiar and new, serve as our guides through complex science, astronomical concepts and a wealth of geek-tastic fun.

There's no question that as a series, The Universe is best suited to Blu-ray, and The Universe: The Complete Season Five features the same impressive CG representations and effects that have made the series worth watching so far. The 1080p presentation boasts deeply saturated colors and solid contrast, faring well with both talking head interviews with experts and CG-rendered journeys through space and all its wonders. The audio presentation matches the video note for note, with crisp and suitably dramatic narration and dialogue and better-than-average music. Speaking of running out of steam and inspiration, there are no extra features of any kind on this release.

Even if we're seeing the series coming to close, The Universe has been a fantastic ride. If the producers are planning to keep the series going beyond the fifth season, it would be great to see more episodes per season again and more focus on topics that haven't been touched on already.

The Verdict

The Universe: The Complete Season Five may be a tad too short, but it still has many of the strengths that have hooked viewers from the beginning by making science sexy again.

Review content copyright © 2011 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: History Channel
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)

* English

Running Time: 376 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* Official Site