The Lives of the Stars

(Atom Production, Stellar Phenomena)
Cosmos
by Carl Sagan
A Personal Journey
13 episodes
See below for
DVD purchasing options
(Carl Sagan's Cosmos episode no. 9)
  • written by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan & Steven Soter
  • series director & executive producer Adrian Malone
  • Cambridge sequences directed by David Kennard
  • Spaceship and studio sequences directed by Rob McCain
  • American sequences directed by David F. Oyster
  • Video Effects sequences directed by Richard J. Wells
  • edited by James Latham (film) and Roy Stewart (videotape)

  • Main Title Theme by Vangelis
  • Music by Vangelis, Synergy, Wm. Jeffery Boydstun, and others...
  • 1 documentary @ 59 minutes

Data Capsule Review

by Martin Izsak


This is, I think, the best episode in the second half of Sagan's "Cosmos" series. Apart from one later cartoony section, the visuals and music are particularly exceptional here. The subject matter is also fascinating all the way through and fairly solid.

The two main ideas - atom production and the life cycle of stars - relate to each other nicely, and Sagan is in top form expressing the details and history of the concepts with enthusiasm and clarity.

Participants include:

Dr. Carl Sagan

Astronomer, host, narrator


Atoms of Cambridge

The first 1/3 of the episode is centered in and around Cambridge university, where atomic structure was first discovered. Sagan gives quite a complete explanation of atoms here, from size and scale, to their composition from the building blocks of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and the various forces that need to be rebalanced to put things together. These sequences are kept lively by creative use of the location and many different props. Quite good.

Since this sequence is primarily concerned with all you need to know for the later stellar phenomena sequences, it doesn't quite go far enough to cover topics like ions (basically atoms that do NOT have the right number of electrons to be electrically balanced), or the concept of building molecules out of atoms, which could get us into valences and completing various electron orbit shells. Perhaps that should ideally be in a different episode if done at all though, because the atomic section that we do get is a hefty chunk in itself, after which the episode makes a stylistic and visual shift, and enjoys a burst of new energy as it tackles some different ideas altogether.


Suns and Supernovae

The episode makes a successful return to outer space and the depths of time for its next segment. We begin with a review of what we know about the composition of our own sun, and the processes at work there. This is a visually beautiful stretch of the program. Modern presentations of the show feature some excellent full motion CGI, which is mixed with actual scientific photography and film of our own sun's churning gases and corona, ejecting plumes of material into space. Sagan then describes the details of the changes the sun will undergo in its lifetime, and contrasts this with other types of stars. This he does very nicely and succinctly, such that viewers are prompted to come out of this episode with a very clear idea of what many celestial objects are, and what it is that makes them different or special.

But the most definitive sequence of the episode comes next, as Sagan takes us in the familiar Ship of the Imagination to witness a supernova explosion. It's about the only time in the series that we get a bit of high tension and drama in the ship, which helps the sequence stand out a bit. Some of the graphics don't seem very modern, but they have a unique bit of charm to them. How well-built is Sagan's ship? How many of these forces can it withstand? The sequence wraps up by connecting the dots appreciably. It is thanks to prior Supernova explosions that we get to enjoy all the heavier atomic elements that these big powerful stars fused and synthesized in their interiors.


One thing I always found a bit creepy is the casual way Sagan handles radioactive uranium in the cave, adding only a pair of gloves to his usual outfit. It doesn't seem too surprising to me then, that he passed away at an early age....

Another most memorable bit is the portrayal of the timespan of Human observations of the Crab Nebula - ancient cultures recording what was likely a supernova explosion in that location, while modern astronomers regard the nebula as the gaseous outer shell of that supernova, and the rapidly spinning pulsar in the center as the supernova's core remains.


The details of what a pulsar is kick off the episode's final segment of wilder ideas of various space phenomena that may be out there, and the wilder branch of physics that may support those types of objects. There's quite a large variety of things here, such that new things continue to pop out on subsequent viewings. Before it's all over, Sagan gets quite poetic and excited about it all, and the episode comes to a grand, exciting, and once more visually exquisite conclusion.

In terms of having any content I might have a disagreement with, the episode is also fairly pure. There are a few hints at limiting evolutionary possibilities, but these are quite faint ghosts of material already tackled head-on in episode 2. There's also a tiny bit about Einstein's theories to support the concept of black holes. I don't know if any aspect of this might one day seem dated, but black holes currently still work for me, and Sagan does present them in a milieu of fascinating speculative ideas.

But, you've gotta love the supernova sequences, the pulsars, the discussion of the Crab Nebula as it was observed down through history, and the sequence of wrapping Cambridge up in a Googolplex as though it was a sophomore prank.


Yes, episode 9 here is one of the better ones, and a good highlight to look forward to during the later parts of the run.





The Music - Episode 9 - The Lives of the Stars

(Anything written in green text represents a name I made up to help keep some music better identified in my own head.)
Composer/PerformerTitleNotes
VangelisSymphony to the Powers B, Movement Three
also known as "Theme from Cosmos"
Title Music
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunLife Cycle
Gottfried Finger
"King of Pies" What's this?
Sonata for Trumpet, Oboe, Basso Continuo [and Violin]
sometimes (mis)labeled? "in D Major / D Dur"
though it plays in C Major on Cosmos soundtrack
Johann David HeinichenConcerto S233 for 2 Horns and 2 Flutes in F Major
Movement 2 - Andante poco Allegro
VangelisAlpha (original version)
Richard HarveyMigrationformerly known here as "mystery 139"
Joseph HaydnTrumpet Concerto in E Flat - Movement 3wrapping Cambridge in a roll of "Googolplex"
VangelisAlpha (remastered version)
Gottfried Finger"King of Pies"
Sonata for Trumpet, Oboe, Basso Continuo [and Violin]
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunIn Motion Delta 01 -> 02
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunMetamorphosis
VangelisAlpha (remastered version)
VangelisComet 16
Alford ClemRaga Sind Bhiravi21:54 - 22:36 (replacement for Paul Horn in India?)
Larry Fast / SynergyLegacy
VangelisAlpha (remastered version)
?? Vangelis?Movement 13 - "Ghost of the Sun"
Larry Fast / SynergyDelta Four(quiet bits only)
Igor StravinskyThe Rite of Spring - Part 1: The Adoration of the Earth
section 2 of 7: "Augurs of Spring"
(classical suspense)
(this portion does NOT appear
on Voyager's Golden Record)
VangelisSpiral(strangely, only the last minute of this song is used,
despite that the opening would have been awesome here)
Pink FloydOne of These Days
Dmitri ShostakovichSymph. 5 Mvmt. 3, "Requiem" excerpt
J.S. Bach / Isao TomitaThe Sea Named "Solaris"... 38:48
?? unknown?? unknown39:10 - 39:59 (flutey oriental-sounding piece)
?? unknown?? unknown - The Big Burn40:10 - 41:20 (dark Cyber synthpad - also heard near end of ep. 4)
Larry Fast / SynergyDelta Four(hard & fast random electronic pulse-notes
backing the rotating Pulsar)
VangelisComet 16 begins
?? unknown"Cheshire Gravity, Flatland, and Foot People" humorous waltz for strings
VangelisComet 16 concludes
?? unknown?? unknown - Venus Goes Digital47:17 - 47:58 (electronic, same as ep 4 Venus intro)
?? Vangelis?Movement 12 - "Pristine"
Larry Fast / SynergyLegacy
nice long 4.5 minute excerpt used

VangelisTheme from Cosmos
J.S. Bach / Isao TomitaThe Sea Named "Solaris"Cosmos Update
?? Vangelis?Movement 12 - "Pristine"end credits
VangelisComet 16Collector's Edition 2000 Credits



Gottfried Finger
King of Pies

Sonate in C-Dur für Trompete, Oboe und Basso continuo

mp3 track

U.S.

U.K.

Gottfried Finger
King of Pies

"better" known as
Sonata in C-Major for Trumpet, Oboe and Basso continuo

composed by Gottfried Finger
performed by Leipziger Barocksolisten
mp3 track

Though the oboe performance here tries to get a bit too fancy for my tastes in one or two moments, this remains the best of the many available recordings of this piece that I've been able to find so far. It's a pretty good match for the recording heard in "Cosmos" episodes 6 and 9, with good balance between all three instruments in the mix.


Vangelis
Spiral

Original music
composed by
Vangelis

Audio CD

The last minute of the title track "Spiral" appeared in "Cosmos", even though little of its distinctive opening was heard at that point, making it one of the more unrecognizable uses of Vangelis music.

Spiral: Remastered Edition 2013:

U.S.

Canada

U.K.

Spiral 2013

All Tracks by Vangelis
This album available on CD only.

Track Listing:

1. Spiral
2. Ballad
3. Dervish D
4. To the Unknown Man
5. 3 + 3
6. To the Unknown Man (Part Two) - CD only


Spiral - original Audio CD:

U.S.

Canada

U.K.

Vangelis - Greatest Hits

All Tracks by Vangelis
This album available on CD or MP3 download.

Track Listing:

1. Spiral (6:57)
2. Ballad (8:29)
3. Dervish D (5:13)
4. To the Unknown Man (9:06)
5. 3 + 3 (9:35)

U.S. 2009 alternate


Synergy
Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra

Original music
composed by
Larry Fast as Synergy

Audio CD

Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra:

U.S.



Canada



U.K.

Synergy - Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra

All Tracks by Larry Fast as Synergy
This album available on CD or MP3 download.

Track Listing:

1. Legacy (10:10)
2. (s)Laughter on Tenth Avenue (11:54)
3. Synergy (5:30)
4. Relay Breakdown (6:25)
5. Warriors (12:58)


Synergy
Games

Original music
composed by
Larry Fast as Synergy

Audio CD

Games:

U.S.

Canada

U.K.

Synergy - Games

All Tracks by Larry Fast as Synergy
This album available on CD or MP3 download.

Track Listing:

1. Delta Two (5:42)
2. Delta Four (6:14)
3. Delta One (7:35)
4. Delta 3/A (2:23)
5. Delta 3/B (2:11)
6. Delta 3/C (4:02)
7. Delta 3/D (3:05)
8. Delta 3/E (2:18)
9. Delta 3/F (4:47)



This documentary has become available on DVD.
Cosmos - by Carl Sagan: A Personal Journey


13 hour-long episodes, 1980
U.S.

Canada

U.K.


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Read the data capsule review for another episode: "The Persistence of Memory"



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