A Fresh Look at the Cosmos?

Last week, San Diego enjoyed its yearly deluge of science-fiction, fantasy, and pop-culture during its yearly Comic-Con convention. And to be sure, there were thousands of attendees, lots of costumes and plenty of news about upcoming film and TV projects.

I’ve never attended (the long lines just don’t seem worth it to me) but I always keep up on the news from it. And this year, the preview that most caught my attention wasn’t a fantasy movie or science-fiction tv show, but the announcement that the FOX network is producing an updated version of Cosmos – the landmark PBS series from 1980 with Carl Sagan – with astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson at the helm of the (also updated) Ship of the Imagination.

Druyan & deGrasse-Tyson at Comic-Con

Druyan & deGrasse-Tyson at Comic-Con

The series is the product of Ann Druyan (Sagan’s widow), deGrasse-Tyson, and the perhaps unlikely Seth MacFarlane (who has actually been a science proponent). The show will air starting in February 2014. Here is the preview:

That certainly looks “edgier” than the stately Sagan-with-a-Vangelis soundtrack from before, but I’m intrigued by and excited for this. Re-stating Sagan’s original introduction at the outset, “The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be…We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.” sets the right tone in my mind and, yes, caused me to choke up a little. Perhaps that’s because I can not understate the effect of Cosmos on the course of my life. No teacher, no class, no role model in my life kindled within me the desire to pursue a vocation in research and discovery more than Carl Sagan and Cosmos.

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage

With such a weighty nostalgia for the original, this new venture might seem as if it’s treading on dangerous territory, but I can’t think of anyone better to pick up the torch for this era than deGrasse-Tyson. I mean, besides me. But they didn’t call me, did they? Maybe Neil and the new series will be able to reverse some of the tides of anti-science and misinformation that we needlessly struggle against here in the 21st century and inspire a new generation of teens discover with equal parts imagination and skepticism.

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27 thoughts on “A Fresh Look at the Cosmos?

  1. This looks very interesting, Steve. I was a huge fan of Carl Sagan, back in the day. I spent many hours with him, pondering millions and millions of particles of starrrr stufffff! He was great. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. Isn’t it great when an oldie but a goodie makes a return appearance? I can see you now…popcorn bowl overflowing. What alcoholic beverage goes best with cosmos…

    • BD — A lot of people don’t like it when a classic gets remade — and I’d have been skeptical about this if I didn’t have so much respect for the people involved.

  3. This was announced months and months (beellions and beellions of microseconds?) ago, so I was eagerly awaiting the details that were to come from SDCC.

    NdGT is this generation’s Sagan, so it’s nice someone with MacFarlane’s clout threw it behind this project.

  4. This is interesting and wonderful news, Steve! Can’t wait for the new version of ‘Cosmos’ to come out. Remaking a classic is like walking on a landmine. Old fans of the series will always be skeptical. When I see movies that I love, getting re-made, I am skeptical most of the time. But sometimes the new version is as good as the old one, in a different way. Hope you like the new version of ‘Cosmos’ and fall in love with it again. I can’t wait for Feb 2014! Seeing the picture of Neil deGrasse-Tyson made me remember the episode in ‘The Big Bang Theory’ in which he makes an appearance and has a conversation with Sheldon :)

    • Vishy — I am pretty skeptical about remakes too. Especially remakes of something that was so good in its original form. I’m really optimistic that this will be a great show in its own right.

  5. This looks excellent, Steve. Modern, tapping into nature and including human’s role of evolution and discovery. Too often we consider the Cosmos separate from Earth’s environment.

    And what’s stopping you from making your own mini-video series right here on your blog, hrm? Even though you nearly lost your King Geek title by not ever attending ComicCon!

    • Amelie — I love when I see something that reminds me of our place in the magnitude of Earth’s history or in the vastness of the universe. It’s a great check on our egos — at least it should be.

      And I know! My lack of Comic-con-ness is a really gap in my Geek CV. I should have gone when I first got to San Diego (2001) before it had gotten SO huge.

  6. Thanks for the headsup. Shall look out for the show, although I know I have to rely on the underbelly of pirate videos to see it anytime soon, in this part of the world.

  7. My younger daughter was at Comic-Con again this year but didn’t mention anything about the panel with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Knowing her, she would have made every effort to avoid it. Hard science is not her forte. :) But I welcome a remake of Cosmos, partly because of the huge changes and discoveries made since Sagan’s death, and because good science shows have become rare on television, in spite of the dozens of so-called science-oriented cable channels. (When Animal Planet aired “Mermaids: The New Evidence,” I knew I hadn’t made a mistake in canceling my Comcast subscription!) PBS appears to be the only network channel that has held true to the idea of true science shows. I suspect many fans of Carl Sagan will be watching with hypercritical eyes what Fox’s entertainment wing does with Cosmos, particularly since Fox News is no friend of science education that is free of creationism. I know I will!

    • HG — Glad to hear that she’s still in SD! The content of the so-called “Learning Channel” and Discovery are so so depressing to me. I think they should be truer to documentaries and information than they’re getting — and the “reality” shows they’re starting to hawk is truly awful. But what is a network supposed to do? Sadly, these crappy shows probably make more advertising money than real documentaries.

      I’m sure there will be haters — just on principle these days — but I hope most people give it a fair shake. I do think it’s funny that it’s going to be broadcast on FOX — they can promote during primetime and bash it on their news network. Win win for them!

  8. I saw this a few months ago, too. (the rumor, that is) And I am delighted to see it was true! I, too, choke up a bit when I read the words of Carl Sagan and hear his voice in my mind.
    It sounds like they have some good folks working on it.

    As for the “reality” shows on Discovery, gag me with a spoon.

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