Judge Kent Dixon can make the Kessel run in 12 parsecs. Now that's travelling!
Our review of A Traveler's Guide To The Planets, published July 1st, 2010, is also available.
From Mars' monstrous mountains to Saturn's glittering rings, the sights are out of this world.
Like most children, beyond seeing the moon in the night sky, I'm pretty sure my earliest experience with the planets involved either balloons and paper mache or uncooked macaroni and glitter. Likely for the great majority of us, our own planet is overwhelming and awe-inspiring enough, let along wrapping our heads around the fact that, at least in a planetary sense, we are not alone.
Man has looked to the heavens as long as we've populated the Earth, wondering what those lights in the night sky are all about and considering our own existence, wondering if we're truly the only ones out here in the infinite void of the universes. Beginning with JFK's push for the moon in the '60s, we've had a nearly insatiable desire to reach out beyond our blue planet and get to know the other planets in our celestial family. A National Geographic miniseries that ran for three nights in February 2010, A Traveler's Guide to the Planets took a closer look at our seven fellow planets and other mysteries of our solar system; using high-tech telescopic images, CG representations and input from a wide array of astronomers, biologists and other experts.
All six episodes of the show are now available on DVD and Blu-ray, spread across two discs as follows:
• Venus and Mercury
• Pluto and Beyond
• Neptune and Uranus
Each episode follows the same formula: a broad introduction to the planet in question is followed by a more in-depth look at the planet using a mixture of CG sequences, expert interviews, archival footage and other material. Each episode includes some or all of the following segments: "Planetary Profile," "Getting There," "Climate" and "What to See;" each dealing specifically and somewhat self-explanatorily with one aspect of the planet. You may think you've seen one planetary documentary too many, but A Traveler's Guide is something different. Maybe it's the strong narration by experienced documentary narrator Bray Poor (Cowboys & Outlaws) pulling everything together, or the quirky score that feels like a cross between Twin Peaks and Darkman; the whole thing just works.
A major part of the series' success is due to the enthusiasm and genuineness of the scientists who weigh in on their planets of specialty. These people are as excited about exploring our galaxy and the possibility of visiting other planets as the average 8-year-old, and it's hard for that excitement to not pull you in from the start. Add to that some of the most amazing images of celestial bodies that any of us have likely ever seen, and more than a few "I did not know that" moments, and that makes A Traveler's Guide a solid series not to be missed.
Pardon the pun, but A Traveler's Guide to the Planets is out of this world in HD. The image exhibits amazing clarity and depth that grabs hold of the viewer and never lets go. From the deep reds of the Martian landscape and blues and greens of Earth, to the inkiest blackness of deep space, the presentation is top notch. The audio mix is relatively common documentary fare; blending music, narration and interviews, but also managing to remain balanced with no one element overpowering any other and married to the visual presentation beautifully. This release also includes two short featurettes about the Sun and the Moon, but these snippets pale in comparison to the depth and breadth of the content covered in the full episodes.
According to the series, the first human who will land on Mars is alive and walking around on Earth today. While that person may not be you or me, and we may never have the adventure of leaving our home planet, A Traveler's Guide to the Planets is one heck of a companion on a tour around the galaxy that will likely offer something to viewers of all ages.
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