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Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey: A Review of Ep. 1

By Leslie
March 10, 2014

The reincarnation of the Cosmos series was something that I eagerly looked forward to after being quite enthused with Carl Sagan's version. I did not see the series when it first aired but I had the privilege of viewing it online a couple years ago. Perhaps more than his scientific expertise, Sagan's personality and genuine fascination with the universe made the thirteen-part series a gem. It was Carl Sagan's dream that the true story of the Universe would be known by all.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey: Episode 1
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey: Episode 1

"Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey", a contination of Carl Sagan's original series "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage", was visually magnificent taking full advantage of the technology not yet available in its original incarnation. It premiered last night, thirty-four years after the original series, at 9 p.m Trinidad and Tobago time on the National Geographic channel and several of Fox's networks.

If you did not know that Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) was involved in the project beforehand, then perhaps that may have eluded your awareness as his name, as well as Ann Druyan's, Sagan's widow and collaborator, occupied minimal space on the screen. Perhaps it was a carefully thought out strategy but it showed some restraint on the part of MacFarlane whose input is undeniably fundamental to the show. It also gave the idea that the show was bigger than those involved with prime focus going to science. There was also understandable concern about Carl Sagan's irreplaceability. However, the new host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, brings his own spunk and individuality to the narration. He seems genuinely passionate about his love for science and I'm certain that Saganists would appreciate this. There is much more that can be said about the awesome graphics that the series employs but alas, I leave that for the poets.

What was missing from this continuation of the Cosmos series was placing scientific ideas in a more accurate, historical context. Although there was a Black narrator, (and an unwarranted appearance by Barrack Obama before the premiere – another story in itself), the Euro-biased/Western voice still dominated. This was rather disappointing. Although revisionist historical perspectives were existent even before Sagan's times, there are more numerous sources recognizing non-European contributions and knowledge systems today. Evidently, the world still revolves around the European story despite more and more people acknowledging pre-European encounters with cosmic science. The information is there. Even if there may be differing perspectives, they should be included – and in a major way too. If we are to understand the great mysteries of the universe, suppressed voices resulting from historic racism, gender biases and other forms of negative discrimination must be included in narratives to help illuminate the cosmic story. A simple rehashing of the perspectives shed by Sagan – as well intended as he was – is an act of laziness which is inexcusable as far as I am concerned.

I'm uncertain as to how the rest of the series would progress. I'm almost certain though that it would continue to be a visual spectacle and provide basic, already-known information to the novice as well as re-inspire the familiar. However, despite all the on-the-surface marvels, without addressing blatant pro-Western biases then there would be no substantial progress from Sagan's original.

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