Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ lives on with ‘A Spacetime Odyssey’ and Neil deGrasse Tyson

To say that Carl Sagan was an inspiration to many people is probably an overused statement, but there are not many people who inspired a love of science and the universe as much as this man. Sagan did so with his ground breaking programme Cosmos, and I remember watching it in the 80’s. full of wonder as he explained the universe that we inhabited, the galaxies that surrounded us, and the cosmic dust that we came from.

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On March 9th, one man had the extraordinary task of following the great man’s steps, and continuing his work, to educate, to entertain and to enrapture, and perhaps there was only one man who could fill those shoes, host of ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’ – Neil deGrasse Tyson, a rockstar of astrophysics with a knack of explaining the unexplainable.

The show launched yesterday with undoubtedly the largest TV launch in television history on 120 Fox networks and stations in 125 countries and on 90 National Geographic channels in more than 180 countries. Behind these impressive figures however, lie some equally impressive production facts. For instance, two of the executive producers are none other than Seth MacFarlane, he of Family Guy and Ted fame, and Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, an established author in her own right.

Neil deGrasse Tyson in Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey.

Neil deGrasse Tyson in Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey. Photograph: Patrick Eccelsine/Fox

MacFarlane says: “I had seen it as a child, and when I was in high school, saw it again and was able to process it in even more depth.” MacFarlane met Tyson at a lunch where Hollywood producers and scientists get together to make sure the science in movies is as accurate as possible. With his recent successes giving MacFarlane the opportunity to back the right project, he was looking for a scientific research project that he could help fund. However, Tyson persuaded him to consider remaking Cosmos for the 21st century, and the rest they say is history.

The resulting 13 episode series features animation, CGI, an uplifting musical score and takes the viewer from ‘the nucleus of a hydrogen atom, across the visible universe, down into a black hole’.

The first episode sees the story of 16th friar Giordano Bruno, who dared to say that the sun was only another star moving in space. He was one of the first people to realize that the universe contained unknown planets that could be populated by intelligent beings. He was eventually burned at the stake for his beliefs.

Druyan thinks it prudent that they open with this episode as she says: “Science thought of itself as a priesthood. If you weren’t an initiate, you could not know the chemical secrets. Carl tore down that wall. That was the whole point then, and that’s why to do it then and now.”

The original Cosmos series made its debut some thirty-four years ago, but Druyan thinks now is the right time for a relaunch: “because the power of the scientific perspective is, in my view, the most awesome way to experience life and the universe.” She adds: “In the first series, Carl and I had this overwhelming feeling to share it with everyone,” Druyan says. “That’s what really fueled the original, and this is the same feeling. We have been through a period of hostility with science.”

‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’ continues Sundays 9.00pm FOX

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