BBC Video // 2011 // 232 Minutes // Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // September 10th, 2011
"Ultimately, we are part of the universe, so its story is our story." -- Professor Brian Cox
For a large percentage of the population, what we learned about our solar system and the universe as a whole may very likely have ended in junior or senior high school. This is truly a tragedy, as there is so much to learn about existence beyond our everyday and often mundane lives on Earth. Thankfully, broadcasters like the History, Discovery, and the BBC continue to give some of the world's foremost scientists platforms for sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with the general public.
Picking up nicely from the 2010 BBC production Wonders of the Solar
Wonders of the Universe first sets the stage by introducing a concept called the "arrow of time," which states that we are compelled to move into the future and as each moment passes, things change. The series also asserts that humans and everything on Earth is composed of the same atoms that exist throughout the universe, making us literally composed of stardust. The series also explores the laws of gravity and how they affect everything in our universe and how light can be used to reveal the age and distance between the Earth and other celestial bodies. Cox does an excellent job of explaining complex scientific concepts in layman's terms, using illustrations and physical examples, keeping the audience from becoming lost along the way. There are times where the concepts become a bit dull and bog down, but these moments are few and far between and don't last long.
Similar to Wonders of the Solar System, Universe features impressive CG imagery, as well as slow motion camera work, time lapse and other stylistic touches that make the series a pleasure to watch as you learn. Composer Sheridan Tongue returns to provide the soundtrack for Wonders of the Universe and this time, I managed to track the score down -- it's just that good. Visually, Universe is solid throughout, delivering sharp visuals, vibrant colors and consistent contrast. While some might argue that the 1080i image falls below what a 1080p master might have delivered, they would be hard-pressed to prove it. While locked in the front of the room, the 2.0 audio mix is well balanced, combining narration, music and other elements into a result that is very pleasing to the ear. It's interesting to note that viewers complained to the BBC that when the show first aired, they felt the music overpowered the narration, so the mix was adjusted for subsequent airings; Cox disagreed, so the original sound mix is the one viewers will experience on the home video releases.
There are no extra features of any kind included here, but realistically, what could possibly added to a documentary like this that already offers a wealth of information wrapped in a solid A/V presentation?
Wonders of the Universe is another recommended release from the BBC and Professor Brian Cox that introduces new concepts and expands on familiar ones, delivering nearly four hours of edutainment. With Wonders of the Universe now into its second season, it's worth your time to give this a spin and get caught up.
Review content copyright © 2011 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 232 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated
* Official Site
* Brian Cox