History Channel // 2007 // 3055 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 13th, 2011
To infinity and beyond!
One of The History Channel's biggest hits, The Universe is exactly what it sounds like -- a show about boundless outer space and everything (or everyone, depending on what you believe) that's swirling around in pitch blackness of the great beyond. The show has spanned five season and informed viewers about everything from cosmic clusters to parallel universes to what would happen if we lost the sun (long story short: very bad things). For those who missed the seasons in hi-def and want to play catch up, The History Channel is offering up The Universe: The Complete Series Megaset, a gigantic sixteen disc box set that will have you feeling like Stephen Hawking in no time.
Have you ever wondered what lies beyond the naked eye? What treasures, dangers and mysteries do the cosmos hold? If so, you've found your place of Mecca in The Universe: The Complete Series Megaset, a series so densely packed with scientific information it's guaranteed to bring Albert Einstein back from the dead! This massive set contains all five seasons of the award winning History Channel show. A user's guide for all things in orbit, The Universe explores both scientific fact and imagined possibilities about our vast universe. Just about every conceivable topic is covered, including sex in outer space! (Yes sir! That's right!! You heard that correctly!!! Doin' the nasty 'cross the galaxy!)
Here is an episode guide to all five seasons of The Universe on Blu-ray Disc:
* "Secrets of the Sun"
* "Mars: The Red Planet"
* "The End of Earth: Deep Space Threats to Our Planet"
* "Jupiter: The Giant Planet"
* "The Moon"
* "Spaceship Earth"
* "The Inner Planets: Mercury and Venus"
* "Saturn: Lord of the Rings"
* "Alien Galaxies"
* "Life and Death of a Star"
* "The Outer Planets"
* "The Most Dangerous Place in the Universe"
* "Search for E.T."
* "Bonus: Beyond the Big Bang"
* "Alien Planets"
* "Cosmic Holes"
* "Mysteries of the Moon"
* "The Milky Way"
* "Alien Moons"
* "Dark Matter"
* "Space Travel"
* "Unexplained Mysteries"
* "Cosmic Collisions"
* "Colonizing Space"
* "Wildest Weather in the Cosmos"
* "Biggest Things in Space"
* "Cosmic Apocalypse"
* "Deep Space Disasters"
* "Parallel Universes"
* "Light Speed"
* "Sex in Space"
* "Alien Faces"
* "Deadly Comets and Meteors"
* "Living in Space"
* "Stopping Armageddon"
* "Another Earth"
* "Strangest Things"
* "Edge of Space"
* "Cosmic Phenomena"
* "Death Stars"
* "The Day the Moon Was Gone"
* "It Fell From Space"
* "Biggest Blasts"
* "The Hunt for Ringed Planets"
* "10 Ways to Destroy the Earth"
* "The Search for Cosmic Clusters"
* "Space Wars"
* "Liquid Universe"
* "Pulsars & Quasars"
* "Science Fiction/Science Fact"
* "Extreme Energy"
* "7 Wonders of the Solar System"
* "Mars: The New Evidence"
* "Magnetic Storm"
* "Time Travel"
* "Secrets of the Space Probes"
* "Asteroid Attack"
* "Total Eclipse"
* "Dark Future of the Sun"
Let's not beat around the bush -- when they say The Universe: The Complete Series Megaset, they mean 'mega set.' This high definition puppy is a sprawling, time eating, brain expanding sixteen disc set that includes five seasons of the popular History Channel show as well as a bonus disc of 3D content for those who've gone the extra mile and ponied up for the new technology. Fans of this show won't be disappointed by any stretch with how much content they're going to get in this Blu-ray box set. You basically get over two full day's worth of material in this set, which means you can spend an entire weekend -- hour to hour, back to back -- watching this puppy and still some bonus material left over.
In a way, The Universe is a show almost as big and expansive as its subject matter. There is a LOT to be covered over this set, so much that it can be daunting to sit through the entire series and not feel slightly stupid as you realize the vast amount of knowledge you haven't previously acquired in your life. Compound that by secondary feelings of insignificance on a grand scale -- throughout the entire series you're constantly bombarded with the idea that we are only a minuet speck on the tiniest speck of another microscopic speck sitting on an even smaller speck of the universe. Welcome to a TV series that reminds you no matter what you do in life, in about 10,000 years the universe just won't give a s**t.
Ahem. Pardon my momentary lapse into nihilism.
I enjoyed The Universe but realized that it's not a show to be sat through expediently (being a reviewer, I don't have the luxury of spacing it out over a few months). Sitting through the entire thing in the span of a week may cause your brain to leak out the side of your head or your eyeballs to explode, neither of which are preferable to living a long, healthy life. There is so much information covered here that it's hard to take it all in one episode after another. The filmmakers do a very nice job of taking such dense, scientific information and whittling it down to where a layman (such as myself) can digest it without feeling like the galaxy's biggest dunce. So, be prepared for brain overload if you decide to tackle this in just one -- or two, or twelve -- sittings.
The show is at it's best when it's discussing things that are a little more fathomable to those of us who haven't had a lot of experience with the cosmos. One of my favorite episodes had to do with 'Alien Planets'. The thought process is that beyond our galaxy are hundreds if not thousands (or bazillions, who knows?) of other planets, some possibly with the same inhabitable qualities of the planet earth. There is a special team of scientists designated to seeking out the planets with powerful microscopes and what they've found is often astonishing, including a planet hundreds of times bigger than Jupiter, which itself is pretty mother-humpin' big. Another fascinating moment for me (during the episode "Secrets of the Sun") was finding out that earth lines up just perfectly with our yellow sun -- had we been cosmically realigned in some other way (even by a few hundred thousand miles), our little rock we call home would have either been a giant microwave oven or the universe's most impressive ball of ice. Also, eventually the sun will go out sometime in the distant future, thus negating the existence of man on planet earth. As if you don't have enough to worry about as it is, right?
The series covers almost every topic imaginable that has to do with anything outside our atmosphere -- the moon (and what it would be like if it disappeared), Mars, black holes, the possibility of alien galaxies, the big bang, light speed, comets and meteors, the edge of space, death stars (but sadly, no Darth Vader), Saturn and its rings, pulsars and quasars, dark matter, supernovas, nebulas, Jupiter and its moons, gravity and a whole lot more. It's breathtaking in its comprehensiveness; if you go into watching this entire TV series and don't come out at least slightly smarter than when you started, either you weren't paying attention or evolution clearly isn't working in your favor.
So what was my personal favorite? Well, I'm a doomsday guy. I'm fascinated by the idea that someday down the line our plant will incur an extinction size event that will not only wipe us off the face of the earth but also...well, just wipe out the whole frickin' planet. Most scientists agree that the earth as we know it ending isn't really a matter of "if" but "when" -- at what point will we become the new dinosaurs? A few episodes scattered around the series ("The End of the Earth: Deep Space Threats to Our Planet," "Deadly Comets and Meteors," "Stopping Armageddon," "10 Ways to Destroy the Earth") deal with just such possibilities. There's just a heckuva lotta ways we as a collective species like us can bite the big one -- meteors, rising temperatures, black holes, the sun collapsing in on itself -- take your pick. Because any way you slice it, eventually the universe is going to walk in, look at our humble abode and essentially quip, "I have come here to expand quasar pulses and kick @$$. And I'm all outta quasar pulses." If knowing how we all may burn or freeze to death interests you, these will end up being your personal watermark episodes.
That being said, I wouldn't say The Universe is by any means a perfect show. There are some episodes that take what seems like a good idea ("The Hunt for Ringed Planets" in season four comes to mind) yet can't seem to fill up an entire episode with interesting information -- these episodes often drag under the weight of monotony. These episodes often fall back on lackluster computer effects, some of which are quite laughable depending on their goal; for instance, any time the filmmakers attempt to show us what happened during the Jurassic period -- complete with CGI dinosaurs -- we immediately think about how hard Steven Spielberg must be laughing (presumably on top of a large pile of money, ala Scrooge McDuck). These are the moments when The Universe flounders a bit -- it's a far reaching show, but can come up short depending on the subject matter at hand.
Nitpicking aside, The Universe is a show of big ideas that hits the mark more often than not when it comes to melding science and fun into one big ball of gaseous entertainment.
Each episode is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen in 1080p high definition. These hi-def transfers are all excellent considering their source (a cable TV show). None of them are perfect and some of the computer graphics show limitations -- I swear there were some moments when the image almost rivaled a really good DVD. The interview segments, of which there are many, are pristine and look as good as any other documentary I've seen on Blu-ray.
All five season's soundtracks to The Universe are presented in PCM 2.0 Uncompressed Audio in English. There isn't a whole lot to say about these sound mixes -- while certainly serviceable, there's nothing exceptional about any of them. The series doesn't really lend itself to a fancy surround sound mix; except for a few computer sequences where a comet goes speeding through space or a solar explosion happens, the bulk of this mix is front heavy and rather unimpressive. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are included any of the seasons.
The bonus features on this set are rather slim by comparison, including four bonus featreuttes and footage ("Universe Facts and Photo Gallery," "Meteors: Fire in the Sky," "Comets: Prophets of Doom" and "Backyard Astronomers"). Frankly, none of this extra footage is very riveting -- it just seems like deleted scenes or extra trimmings from the final cuts of each season. Finally there is a bonus disc that features 3D content for those with a compatible player.
The bottom line is this: The Universe: The Complete Series Megaset is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone who is interested in the field of science, outer space, or (as in my case) ways in which the human race can go belly up. It's hard for me to recommend this to a casual viewer (the price tag is pretty steep at close to $150 and up).
If you plan on picking up The Universe: The Complete Series Megaset, be prepared to have full days of your life eaten up by wormholes, speeding comets and radiation filled gaseous planets. I'm not saying it's not worth it, but I am saying that plunking down your money means you're committed to reliving the equivalent of your entire junior year high school science class again. This set is an easy recommendation for any History Channel or outer space buff, but is better as a rental for casual viewers. Quality wise, The History Channel and distributor New Video have put a lot of fine working into the set and it shows.
The Universe: The Complete Series Megaset is a mega value!
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 3055 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus 3D Disc
* Universe Facts
* Photo Gallery
* Official Site