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I find space, the universe and planets a really fascinating subject. I usually buy books on these subjects as I have found that there aren't all that many quality DVD's available. This DVD unfortunately fits into that category. I have caught bits and pieces on the History channel (not a channel that I love, I must admit) and noticed that there are now a few series' available. The information in the narration isn't too bad, it's very basic and clearly for the layman, which I admittedly am, however the bloke's voice is one I find highly irritating! After a while I can get used to it and nearly ignore it but it's a real drawl and a lot of the narration is over-dramatic nonsense. Considering buying this? I would suggest you instead look to Brain Cox's 'Wonders of The Solar System' and his soon-to-be-on-television 'Wonders of The Universe' if you want quality information, theories, narration and graphics. The BBC documentaries are incomparable with stuff like this, churned out by cheapo channels. I do enjoy some of the later series' more but this one was a big, fat failure.
Pros: - very easy to understand - shows astrophysical phenomena most people never heard of (know what a Magnetar ist?) - some stunning pictures
Cons: - definitely not for adults (or kids) who already know a little bit about the universe - way too many "experts" who, for the most part, simply repeat what the narrator already said - the narrator voice sounds like the guy who promotes movies in trailers with an overemphasis on MOST DANGEROUS AND VIOLENT THINGS IN THE UNIVERSE, and stuff like that - the episodes have a chop-chop narrative due the fact that they were produced to include commercial breaks every ten or so minutes when aired on TV; with very annoying announcements of what comes next (TADAA, most dangerous!) "before" every break, and reps of what has already been said "after" the break; one wishes there actually were some commercials to keep the pace intact - picture quality is very low (feels more like VHS) - very very repetitive, e.g.: * some poor quality simulations of other planet's cloud systems are shown over and over again with a slight change in hue * 90's style computer simulations are shown up to 10 times in a single episode * the concept of gravity as THE driving force in the universe is mentioned a dozen times (or more!) EACH episode, without ever explaining how gravity really works (beside from showing an apple falling down) - the analogies are for the (sorry!) feeble-minded (e.g. car crash forensics as a metaphor for studying colliding galaxies) - very few up-to-date computer graphics; mostly video-manipulated Hubble pictures - at least a third of the total time, you see not space, but earthly experts (mostly out-doors on hiking, climbing, swimming, jogging, ice-hockeying, bowling, etc.) telling not so interesting stuff while looking at the teleprompter (okay, some experts are very screen-wise, but these are few and far between) - this season (I have not yet seen any other) is guilty of an anthropomorphic fallacy, the narrator and the "experts" throw personifications and anthropomorphisms around like they were explaining the universe to toddlers (e.g. "black holes are eating _happily_ what ever comes their way"); every star and galaxy is described as if having intents on doing or achieving something ("the sun is going on a diet by loosing 90% of its weight to avoid death"); there is absolutely no need to personify cosmic events, in fact, it destroys for me the awe at an fascinating but nonetheless non-human universe, in which things happen due to cosmic constants and laws but not because this Galaxy WANTS to destroy the other Galaxy, and, please, stars are not afraid of dying, therefore are not intent on prolonging their "life" by this and that "behavior"... - the experts are sometimes really interesting persons (the man who was responsible for demoting Pluto as a planet; the woman who found a massive black hole at the center of our galaxy) but most of them keep you wondering WHY on earth they were chosen to drop a few lines of simple descriptive text and ever simpler analogies - most "explanations" only scratch the surface of things; and not because of lack of time (there are plenty of redundancies) but because they have no trust in the viewers' intelligence
The bottom line is: might be okay to interest kids in the wonders of the universe, but hard to take for everyone else due to the "dumbing down" of the material. If you have ever seen a BBC documentary on, well, anything - you know what I am hinting at.
Just a side note: It is not a con, but from a European point of view the efforts of the producers to show all the experts representative of US ethnic and gender demographics are overconscientious. A viewer might think half the astronomers are female and at least a fourth are African-American - which would be great, but to my knowledge it is not the reality in the USA. Never mind, it was just noticeable enough to catch my eye...
I found the omnipresent catastrophic CGI not only not helpful, but actually very irritating. The persistent, epileptogenic sequences of cosmic explosions, collisions, destructions, etc. are made in a way more suitable for a teenager computer game, not a serious production. They distract, rather than advance the narrative. The "calmer" sections can be informative and pleasant to watch, but occasionally they, too, come across as superficial and bombastic. There are much better DVDs on this topic on the market
It is an interesting subject. Sadly the animations are of a poor quality. Some animation sequences are shown in almost every episode, it feels real cheap. But, history itself tends to repeat itself they say, so... Also short and fast editing and there is no need for that at all. It doesn't make it more interesting but it does make it very tiresome to watch. Why do televisionmakers seem to think that everything has to be presented in a videoclip kind of way? Annoying music too, it often drowns the narrator. If you watch this, you might get the impression that the universe is a place of constant smashing meteors, exploding stars and coliding planets. Well, no meteor has levelled my home yet and it seems much quiter among the stars when I look up at night...
This is a documentary about space in much the same way that "300" was a documentary about the Battle of Thermopylae. If you enjoyed the informative, intelligently-written "Planet Earth" series, then you are most likely going to be disappointed by this History Channel effort. There are, to be sure, some fantastic computer generated effects for the visual learners and short sound bytes from knowledgeable scientists to accompany the narration. The problem is that the narrative style is suited more to a commercial than a documentary. "Whoa!" says the narrator, "The sun is really big! It's like a nuclear bomb! In fact, it is a nuclear bomb!" and so on.
The series is overly sensational, loaded with repetition, and padded with important sounding music. Perhaps I'm being too critical, but compared to some of the other informative series available, this one misses the mark. The History Channel has all the technology, information, and money they need to make a first class documentary, and yet they choose not to. You can't help wonder why they feel the public needs everything so hyped up and dumbed down.
Very disappointed in the Blu-ray quality. I own other space documentary Blu-ray discs and the quality is 10x better than this. At best, it is DVD quality but mostly either SD broadcast or even VHS. While it is interesting subject matter, it is not the crisp, finely detailed HD Blu-ray quality we have come to enjoy and expect. I was excited to receive this but after watching the first disc, this is where it is, sadly disappointing, They could have done SO much better. Much of the graphics have horizontal lines or graininess and film spots. I will probably not buy another The Universe disc again.
I would have to agree with the reviewer who wrote that there is too much whiz-bang stuff in this series. With all the comments about the quality of the graphics, I was disappointed with the video as it was projected on my home theater screen. Maybe it's terrific on a smaller screen, but I was looking for the airsick bag on several of the episodes. There's also a tendency for the editors to repeat the same graphics material way too many times to illustrate a point. It was starting to look like the nightly news where they use the same footage over and over again becuase there wasn't enough material for the editors to work with. Overall, it's just not that great.
Wanted to Know Before Purchasing Product: On the Amazon Web site it says that the audio is English and Spanish. I have received the video and there is no Spanish Audio. Otherwise the series is spectacular.