Judge Brett Cullum was alarmed to discover the sun is going to burn up the planet until he realized it was just a well done CGI effect.
Explore the edges of the unknown.
The History Channel certainly didn't invent the idea of entertaining educational material (what I call "edutainment"), but they produce a great deal of the stuff designed to make you feel just a smidgen smarter for sitting through it. The Universe is a series based on using astronomy and the sciences of space to create episodes around topics such as faraway galaxies or our neighboring planets. It's a speculative topic yet still one that hard scientific facts can be applied to. They've created what amounts to a fast paced lecture series on what we know about the farthest reaches of our galaxy and beyond. There are a lot of explosive CGI effects, dramatic music, and quick MTV style edits to keep the pace up for modern audiences. The Universe: Complete Season One is a four-DVD set that gathers up all of Season One's broadcast episode plus another segment on "The Big Bang."
The entire series looks good, and the transfer works well enough for so recent a production. One of the frustrating things is it is not an anamorphic transfer, but rather a full frame image with the widescreen matting. Widescreen TV owners won't be fond of this, and it doesn't make a ton of sense these days. The sound is a simple stereo. There are no real extras to speak about, we simply get the series plus that "Big Bang" episode.
The Universe: Complete Season One has a tendency to delve into the sensationalistic ideas of life and death matters of space. Could the sun destroy us? Will our galaxy crash into another eventually? What are the chances of life forms on other planets? Basic school information is combined with more cutting-edge theories, and all of this is presented simply enough to be comprehended by a wide audience. Overall the series does a great job of making the information accessible, yet sometimes they fall trap to the idea of making things too simplified. Some will find this off-putting, because they may feel talked down to. You have to keep in mind this is a show that is designed for all ages, and a wide segment of educational levels and backgrounds.
If you're interested in thinking about the mysteries of what is beyond Earth, then The Universe: Complete Season One is a solid set that will start you on that journey. It's a no-frills presentation of a series that uses a lot of CGI and talking head scientists to explain planets and solar systems. The show is a handsome blend of science talk, telescope images, and conjecture based on scientific facts. It buys in to a few sensational elements but sticks enough to basic, known truths to be acceptable. It's smart television that will keep you entertained at the same time. It's nowhere near as exhaustive as the series about The Earth, and the images are not quite as spectacular. Then again, we don't have quite as much to work with, since so much of space remains unexplored, and at least this is a good starting point. It's the "you are here" on a map that is incomprehensibly larger than we could ever imagine, but don't panic.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
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