Case Number 23781: Small Claims Court


History Channel // 2011 // 658 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 5th, 2012

The Charge

Just like The Big Bang Theory, only without the jokes.

The Case

Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the...Wait, wrong space series. My bad.

What I meant to talk about is the The Universe, History Channel's series on everything going on within our cosmos...and beyond. In Season Six, the filmmakers explore vast theories, dangerous cosmic calamities, and the possibility we are not alone in the universe. From rouge comets to the complexities of time and space (and the ideas behind there being a single Creator of everything), these intrepid scientists and galactic experts try to explain things in a way that makes sense to viewers who aren't Stephen Hawking -- or as we're known in scientific circles, "Little Brains."

The Universe: The Complete Season Six gives us 13 episodes on three discs...

* "Catastrophes That Changed The Planets"
* "Nemesis: The Sun's Evil Twin"
* "How The Solar System Was Made"
* "Crash Landing On Mars"
* "Worst Days On Planet Earth"
* "God And The Universe"
* "UFOs: The Real Deal"
* "How Big, How Far, How Fast"
* "Alien Sounds"
* "Deep Freeze"
* "Microscopic Universe"
* "Ride The Comet"
* "When Space Changed History"

The Universe is a gentle reminder that a) our galaxy is as vast as it is fascinating, and b) we are all just biding time before planet earth gets Michael Bay'ed by the universe. If I took nothing else away from this experience, it's that the universe is a ticking time bomb ready to take down our planet at any given moment. Nowhere is this clearer than in the episode "Worst Days on Planet Earth" which explores all of the genuinely horrible things that happened to the earth before we humans took over. It's theorized that large objects (some the size of Mars) ran into Earth and, much like Joan Rivers, it got a permanent facelift (the "Theia Impact," as it's known). Other events, like a giant bombardment of asteroids, would have been global killers if there had been life around to wipe out. Another cataclysmic event (the "Snowball Earth" hypothesis) threw the planet into a deep freeze (-75 degrees Fahrenheit) 2.4 billion years ago. No bonus points for guessing how that one turned out.

As you can see, even though the universe is a beautiful and awe-inspiring wonder, it's also God's stealthy hit man, ready to snub out humans without hesitation. If you find ideas like this fascinating, The Universe may be right up your alley. Of course, the show focuses on a lot more than just ways our planet will check out. Other episodes delve into the possibility of the sun's evil twin (which throws comets into our orbit every 26 million years or so) and what it's like to speak on the planet Mars (apparently, it sounds like everything is running in slow motion). The show covers a wide range of topics, but the truth is the universe is a pretty deadly and destructive place, so many of the episodes focus on our or other planets/stars/galaxies' impending doom.

I admit to finding this stuff interesting. As a kid, I was fascinated by the possibilities of the universe, no doubt propelled by seeing such movies as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I've never had the academic fortitude to be a scientist or physicist (heck, I had a hard enough time just spelling those words), so this show is the closest I'm going to come to being a brainiac. I enjoy the way the producers present some of the more confounding aspects and theories to laymen like myself. For instance, to wrap my head around the idea that our galaxy might be just one of thousands or millions (or infinite) galaxies, they use a mug of beer and bubbles inside the glass as an analogy. Moments like this make it easier to digest complex information.

The Universe is slickly produced and clips along rather quickly, although there are some flaws in its design. There are moments when certain episodes slow to a crawl, mostly because you can't just show outer space over and over again with nothing of consequence happening and expect the viewer to feel riveted. While there are plenty of episodes with exciting meteor crash sequences or planets running into each other, others feel slightly inert (especially when the episode "Alien Sounds" rolls around). The visual FX are commendable and often realistic...well, as realistic as you can get with a cable show about space. There are times where it feels like the producers are stretching it a bit, covering ground already traversed in previous seasons.

Presented in 1.78:1/1080i high definition widescreen, History Channel has put a good amount of work into making sure the transfers for each episode look exceptionally clean and bright. Although the interview segments are a bit less dazzling, the imagery of outer space with its collection of suns, moons, stars, and deep blackness all sparkle wonderfully on Blu-ray. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio is a bit surprising, considering a show of this caliber could have benefited from a full 5.1 mix (seriously...who films planets and comets whooshing all around and then makes it a front heavy mix?). English subtitles are included for those who are hard of hearing.

The universe may be vast and limitless, but that's not the case with this set. There are no bonus features.

The Universe: The Complete Season Six is an informative, family-friendly program for those who want a crash course on what's going out outside earth's atmosphere. Although a bit slow in spots, it does far more good than harm when it comes to educational, thought-provoking television. Did you know that Saturn's beautiful outer rings are actually pieces of ice? See, the show is already making you smarter by the minute.

The Verdict

Guilty of providing viewers with infinite knowledge. Or, at least 658 minutes worth.

Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 86

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

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

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 658 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb