I really enjoyed the first two seasons of The Universe, a TV
show cablecast on The History Channel. I
was anticipating that season three would be just as informative and
the first two, but surprisingly that is not the case.
Having covered all of the standard topics in
the first two years, this set of shows relied on more fanciful and
episodes. In the past The Universe
presented the know facts and used that as a jumping point for
too many of the season three episodes that relied more on theory than
The first season of The Universe mainly
focused on our solar
system and season two took us beyond our local neighborhood to look at
the impressive objects that exist in the universe and to examine some
unsolved problems that astronomers are still struggling with. In season three however they show seemed to
run out of ideas and was grasping at straws a few times.
Even when they did come up with a solid idea
they often had to pad the show with speculative or uninteresting
really did nothing to advance viewers knowledge of the cosmos around
One of these speculative episodes was the second in the
season, "Parallel Universes."
Various theories were put forth, such as the idea that a galaxy
so far away that it would be impossible to get any data from it
farther away in light years than the age of the universe... any light
from such a
place would not have had time to reach us.)
While that seems possible, it also falls in the "how many angels
dance on the head of a pin" category of unanswerable questions. A more fanciful, and patently ridiculous,
hypothesis is that if the universe is truly infinite, and some theories
hypothesize that are presented, than there has to be an exact duplicate
somewhere. The flaw is that you can use
that argument for anything: There has to
be a place where donuts have no calories, there has to be a planet
Tractor Pulls are part of the Olympics, and an Earth where season three
Universe was much better.
This season has an episode devoted to "Sex in Space," just
how sex and child birth, along with the emotional aspect of mating,
handled. It is not exactly the most
stimulating problem in the galaxy.
There's also "Alien Faces" which looks at what extraterrestrial
creatures might look like. While it's
all fun to think about that, the big problem is that there's only one
data to look at, creatures on Earth, and while we can guess what
significantly different evolutionary environments might look like, it
down to the fact that it's just a guess.
Even when the topics are more down to Earth (no pun
intended) the episodes felt like they were padded.
One potentially interesting show was "Edge of
Space" that looked at the small shell around our planet where
orbit. They discussed the problem of
space junk, everything from booster rockets to chips of paint that are
traveling at high velocities and can damage or destroy a space vessel. Problems such as cosmic rays and radiation
and the unpredictability of solar flares are discussed, which is all
good. But they also spent a good chunk
of the show hypothesizing that someday people would sky dive from space. As the program explained it, they'd don a
special suit and blast off in little more than an open chair strapped
on top of
a rocket. When they reached 125 miles
high or so, they'd jump off.
There were some good episodes in this season. "Deep
Space Disasters" and "Cosmic
Phenomena", which looks at the Aurora Borealis and meteor showers among
things, were interesting programs that didn't stray into the realm of
fiction like some of the other did. It's
just too bad they couldn't all have been like those.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The third season of 12 hour long episodes arrives on three
Blu-ray discs in a double width case.
Like the first season, this set is presented with a very
nice 1.78:1 1080i image. While some of
the vintage footage and the older (and even more recent) interplanetary
images are understandably not of HD quality the show overall looks
wonderful. The CGI animation is
especially colorful and bright but all of the video is tight and nicely
detailed. There are a few problems
however. Banding is evident in more than
a few scenes, mainly outer space animation which has light sources like
surrounded by concentric rings of differing shades.
There was also a touch of cross colorization
in a couple of spots and the blackness of space wasn't as even as it
be. Overall this is a fine looking set
but the impressive images aren't nearly as reference-quality as they
Being a documentary series, I wasn't surprised to discover
that the set comes with only a stereo mix.
There is a fair amount of music in the show and some of the
effects really cry out of a 5.1 mix (stars exploding, comets crashing
Earth and other planets etc.) As it is
the music is full sounding and the talking heads sound clean and clear. A nice though not impressive soundtrack.
This season they don't offer much in the way of
bonuses. The only things that are
included are a photo gallery and a text piece "Universe Facts."
While there were a few good episodes in this set, they
weren't enough to make up for the duds.
It really seems like the creators have run out of ideas after
most of the planets and other observable cosmic entities.
With too many shows relying on theory with
little solid evidence to back them up, a few episodes played out more
science fiction than real science. Even
so, fans of the earlier seasons should make this a rental so they can
worth while episodes.