Case Number 16444: Small Claims Court


History Channel // 2008 // 564 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // May 23rd, 2009

The Charge

Explore the edges of the unknown.

The Case

The third season of History's astronomy series The Universe more or less continues the trend set by the first two. Here is science presented in a TV-friendly way, with nice CG animation, practical examples, and snappy narration. While it sometimes seems the show has reached a little for topics this season and there are a couple of complex topics which are not well explained, this is a pretty solid series. It's not where newcomers to this show should start -- the first season is more accessible, both in the topics it chooses and how it addresses them -- but it's far superior to some of the dreck History has chosen to air recently.

The Universe: The Complete Season Three has twelve episodes compiled on four discs:

Disc One
* "Deep Space Disasters"
In space, even microscopic particles have the capacity to cause massive catastrophes.

* "Parallel Universes"
Scientists believe that not only is this not the only universe that exists, but that there could be an infinite number of universes existing simultaneously.

* "Light Speed"
The speed of light is the one constant in the universe and forms the basis for virtually all physical behavior.

Disc Two
* "Sex in Space"
How will humans reproduce in space? What effects would zero gravity have on both the reproductive and gestational processes? Scientists still haven't agreed on the answers.

* "Alien Faces"
What would aliens who evolved on other planets actually look like? Evolutionary scientists and astrophysicists speculate.

* "Deadly Comets and Meteors"
Though scientists used to believe that comets and asteroids were different things, increasingly they consider them more related than they used to.

Disc Three
* "Living in Space"
Scientists and engineers have begun designing and building the machines and equipment that will help sustain human life out in space and on other planets.

* "Stopping Armageddon"
What tools have astronomers and engineers developed to stop possible asteroid collisions with Earth?

* "Another Earth"
The search for other planets that have Earth-like atmospheres and compositions is one of the most popular fields in astronomy.

Disc Four
* "Strangest Things"
Astronomers discuss some of the most peculiar space phenomena they've ever encountered.

* "Edge of Space"
The upper edge of the Earth's stratosphere marks the beginning of outer space and has become a place for uses both scientific and commercial.

* "Cosmic Phenomena"
How have various cosmic phenomena affected life on Earth in ways both large and small?

As with the first two seasons, the show mixes computer animations and practical examples along with pictures and archive footage. Actually, because most of the episodes this season are more speculative than earlier ones, there's an abundance of CG shots, some of which are reused from episode to episode. This tends to highlight how some topics, such as "Alien Faces" and "Cosmic Phenomena," are too thin to build entire episodes around. Also, there are a couple of episodes, such as the "Parallel Universes" episode in particular, that are so complicated and difficult to visualize that it's still hard to understand the ideas they describe even though the participants do their best. Otherwise, these are as easy to watch and understand as the first two seasons were. Because it does rely on concepts that were explained in earlier seasons, such as how Jupiter acts as the guardian for our solar system, it would probably be a good idea to watch those first before starting with this one. Longtime fans of the show, though, shouldn't worry about this season. It still makes a good complement to the others. Bonus points go to astrophysicist Dr. Amy Mainzer, who appears in several episodes. She's clearly emerged as the show's most prominent interviewee, partly because of her sizable intellect and partly because she bears more than a passing resemblance to Angelina Jolie.

The presentation is typical History DVD: non-anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix, both satisfactory. The last disc has a few pictures and text extras, but these are just icing. The show itself is the cake, and while it may falter in spots, anyone who likes science TV, especially astronomy, should easily find this a worthy collection.

The Verdict

Not guilty. But start with the other seasons first.

Review content copyright © 2009 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: History Channel
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 564 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Photo Gallery
* Universe Facts

* IMDb