"The Universe" Episode Guide Catalogue

This astronomy documentary series has quickly become a favourite show for its audience. Its success centers around its interviewees - basically each episode seeks out many of today's top astronomers, physicists, astrobiologist, engineers, and astronauts, and asks "What are you working on? What's new in your field? What's the latest thing that you and your peers are excited about?" Loads of high quality computer generated imagery, in additional to real images, added to a good narrator and a steady pace, round out a top notch program. Though later years may tend to get a bit hyper-active in framing the info with too much pseudo-sensationalism, there's always good, fascinating new info in each episode, with the earlier years being particularly jam-packed.

Our sequence of data capsule reviews begins with episode 1 - Secrets of the Sun.

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SEASON 1

(2007)

This box set includes the
14 episodes below...

U.S.

Canada

U.K.

Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

Episodes:
1

Secrets of the Sun

(44 min.)
written and directed by Douglas J. Cohen

This episode examines the composition of the sun and its life cycle. Highlights include the theories behind its energy production, the complex magnetic "weather" patterns giving rise to its solar flares and sunspot activity, and the chance of a repeat of the huge solar storm of 1859.

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. A Celestial Blockbuster
  3. The Power of Plasma
  4. Forecasting Solar Threats
  5. A Perfect Solar Storm
  6. Churning Surface of the Sun
2

Mars: The Red Planet

(44 min.)
written, produced, and directed by Tony Long

As our most kindred planet in the solar system, Mars has been the focal point for much of Mankind's imagination about life in the universe and our own colonization of space. This episode does an excellent and fascinating job of covering our history of sending probes to Mars, from the Mariner missions of 1964 and 1971, to the Viking Missions, up to the present day mobile rovers. Surface features such as Olympus Mons: the largest volcano in the solar system, and its three companion volcanoes are examined, along with Mariner Canyon and some ideas for how it may have formed. Of course, the details of the search for evidence of some type of past life on Mars are at the heart of most segments.

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. So Much Like Mars
  3. Early Speculation
  4. A Closer Look
  5. Life on Mars?
  6. Spirit and Opportunity
3

End of the Earth

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan

This becomes the first of many episodes that "The Universe" devotes to catastrophic scenarios. In fact, this episode acts as a teaser on so many subjects that it can't really go into great depth on any of them. Up first are the usual killer asteroid or comet impact events (Apophis 2029, Tunguska 1908, Chicxulub 65,000,000 B.C.) - but for a more detailed and interesting examination see season 3's "Stopping Armageddon" episode. Gamma ray bursts are introduced, but are covered much better in the season 4 opener "Death Stars". The fatal roast as the Sun blossoms into a red giant gets better depth and a much more optimistic spin in the season five finale "Dark Future of the Sun", also written and directed by Verklan. The theory of "The Big Rip", even though presented in this episode by the scientists who came up with it, isn't very convincing here in words or in CGI visuals. This theory has much more weight in the season two finale "Cosmic Apocalypse", where it can be better appreciated.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Cosmic Threats
  3. Harmful Rocks
  4. Gamma Ray Bursts
  5. Turning Up the Heat
  6. The Big Rip
4

Jupiter: The Giant Planet

(44 min.)
written, produced, and directed
by Amy Huggins & Andrew Nock

Here we get a nicely focused episode all about the solar system's largest planet - the gas giant Jupiter. Many details of its composition, lack of a solid surface, weather patterns, and gravitational influence are explored. Though all of its four major moons are briefly introduced, Europa steals the show as we check in with a team designing, building, and testing a robotic explorer to penetrate its icy surface crust and explore the ocean below, looking for signs of life. Finally, we celebrate the majesty of Jupiter's magnetic field, as it creates polar aurorae and mysterious semi-musical radio waves.


- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. A Churning Ball of Gas
  3. The Red Spot
  4. Secrets of Europa
  5. The Magnetic Field
  6. Listening to Jupiter
5

The Moon

(44 min.)
written, produced, and directed by Tony Long

This episode covers many historical ideas of how the moon has affected our cultures and our environment, and how many different concepts about what it was and how it formed fell into and out of favour over the years. Many of these are visualized, and the problems with them are highlighted, while we learn a lot about the moon's general properties in the process. Finally, manned exploration brings back solid evidence of its composition, and planetary scientist Dr. William Hartmann is on hand to promote the Theia Impact Theory of lunar creation that he came up with, which is said to dominate scientific circles today.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Lunar Extremes
  3. Time, Tides, and Origins
  4. Lunar Theories
  5. Lunar Samples
  6. Giant Impact Theory
6

Spaceship Earth

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan

This documentary presents currently accepted theories of how the Earth was created during the formation of the solar system, including a very brief re-cap of the previous episode's critical Theia Impact event. This episode's true highlight is the expanded section on how life might have begun here, as we look at thermophiles, extremophiles, and cyanobacteria, as well as the unique conditions and extended time period during which they dominated the Earth. The episode is less focused in its final segments on climate change, yet contains interesting balancing comments when looking at the "big picture" of the Earth's entire lifespan.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Impacting on Earth
  3. Crashing into Existence
  4. Origins of Life
  5. Complex Life on Land
  6. Ice Caps in Peril
7

Mercury & Venus: The Inner Planets

(44 min.)
written and produced by Andrew Holland
additional writing by Jason Coffee
directed by executive producer Louis C. Tarantino

Venus is up first, and we get all the nasty details of its scorched, hostile environment, with a particular focus on volcanic erosion, sideways lightning, and runaway greenhouse effects. Mercury takes over for the second half, and we discover a world geologically burnt-out at an early stage, which has been pummelled with space debris ever since. The limitations of the Mariner 10 survey of 1974 are made apparent, as newer data from the Messenger probe is anticipated....

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Earth's Twin Venus
  3. Exploring the Surface
  4. The Terrains of Mercury
  5. Site of Impact
  6. Volcanic Heritage
8

Saturn: Lord of the Rings

(44 min.)
written, produced, and directed by Amy Huggins & Andrew Nock

This is a fairly definitive exploration of the planet Saturn and its most interesting moons and features. The nature of the planet itself as a fairly light-weight puff-ball continues with a discussion of its complex weather patterns, including some very unique polar storms. The composition of its distinctive ring system is up next, along with contrasting theories of the rings' creation and the question of how permanent a structure they may be. Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus receive good coverage in the second half, and the episode ends on a brief celebration of the ongoing Cassini probe mission that has discovered so many of the details presented here.

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Gas Giant
  3. The Mysterious Rings
  4. Exploring Titan
  5. Geysers on Enceladus
  6. Search for Life
9

Alien Galaxies

(44 min.)
written and directed by Colin Campbell
additional writing by Andrew Holland

This episode presents many gorgeous images from Hubble and many other space telescopes, as it discusses how our galaxy compares to the others that have been sighted. The Andromeda Galaxy is highlighted, and its trajectory towards our Milky Way is contrasted with the increasing separation between all other galaxies. Also discussed is the Local Group, and we learn about a few of our nearest galactic neighbours. One of the episode's highlights is the speculation about what the universe was like before the first galaxies had formed.


Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Variety of Galaxies
  3. Forming Galaxies
  4. Gravity and Expansion
  5. Black Holes and Dark Matter
  6. Studying the Galaxies
10

Life & Death of a Star

(44 min.)
written by Douglas J. Cohen & Jason Coffee
directed by Douglas J. Cohen

This episode is Stellar Astrophysics 101 - a documentary that explores the concept of nuclear fusion, in terms of the mass requirements, gravitational conditions, and chemical ingredients necessary to make it happen to create a star. There is a lot of detail here on how different masses and chemistries produce different types of stars with very different lifespans, how different elements are fused and created during different phases of a star's life, and how the processes can eventually shut down and explosively transform into the next generation of stellar activity. Also introduced are brown dwarfs - a type of object not quite a planet nor a star, which had the right ingredients but couldn't quite ignite the fusion reaction.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Forces of Gravity
  3. White Dwarfs
  4. All From the Stars
  5. Explosive Collisions
  6. Failed Stars [Brown Dwarfs]
11

The Outer Planets

(44 min.)
written and directed by Colin Campbell
additional writing by producer Brittany Graham

This episode covers many of the outermost worlds of our solar system, which have yet to be explored in great depth by man. A lot of satisfying details about Pluto are covered early on. As we dig into the controversy surrounding its demotion, we meet the man who discovered the very similar Kuiper Belt object Eris in 2005, and a lot of its details are similarly covered. We also get footage of the IAU voting to create the class of "Dwarf Planets", which now includes Pluto, Eris, and former king asteroid Ceres. The episode spends its second half exploring the outer gas giants Uranus and Neptune and their unique features, including the rings of Uranus, and Neptune's storm patterns and its moon Triton.

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Case for Pluto
  3. The Man Who Demoted Pluto
  4. Cool Blue Uranus
  5. Windswept Neptune
  6. Moons of Neptune
12

Most Dangerous Places

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan

After a quick study of magnetars and black holes, we meet the woman who proved that there is a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, and she demonstrates the atmospheric adaptive optics process that allowed the necessary observations to be ground based. From there, we move on to the long-term certainties of galactic collisions, and how these can feed the central black holes sufficiently to produce brilliant quasars and blazars.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Dangers of a Magnetar
  3. Black Holes
  4. Super Massive Threats
  5. Galaxy Mergers
  6. Cosmic Monster Quasars
13

Search for E.T.

(44 min.)
written and directed by Tony Long

This documentary begins by detailing the chemical (and subsequent environmental) conditions necessary for life as we know it, highlighting the

Miller-Urey experiments with the building blocks of life. A scientific visualizing expert is brought in to hypothesize what kind of life might be able to thrive in Jupiter's upper cloud layers, resulting in footage of a balloon creature springboarded off of one of Carl Sagan's ideas. The following hefty segments offer some of the most thorough investigations ever on "The Universe" of the possibility of life as we know it on Jupiter's ocean moon Europa, and then life as we don't yet know it on Saturn's frigid hydrocarbon moon Titan. The SETI organization's radio telescope listening mission is briefly recapped along with its modern automation, before the episode gets sidetracked by one author's obsession with cybernetic and artificial intelligence.

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Life's Basic Chemistry
  3. Europa
  4. Titan
  5. Radio Waves
  6. Intelligent Machines
14

Beyond the Big Bang

(90 min.)
written by Matt Hickey
directed by Luke Ellis

Created by a completely different production company, this odd one-shot double-length documentary tackles many of the same history-of-astronomy-and-science basics as Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" although with many more interviewees and considerably less detail. Through it all, the role of the Earth becomes further decentralized, dwarfed first by the sun, then the galaxy, then finally the universe. But after tackling Einstein near the midpoint, the episode's true purpose and uniqueness come into focus, and we learn about many of the people and disciplines and theories and data that came together to champion the idea that there was indeed a big bang that created the universe, billions of years ago. Interviewees include some of the people that brought that theory into the light.

- more details

- Season One episode Rankings

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Begin with a Bang
  3. Ancient Observations
  4. Sun at the Center
  5. Dogma and Science Collide
  6. Power of Mathematics
  7. Einstein's Theory
  8. Expanding Universe
  9. Steady State Theory
  10. The Smoking Gun
  11. Inflation Theory
  12. Imagine the Future

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


SEASON 2

(2007-08)

This box set includes the 18 episodes below...

U.S.


also:

Canada

U.K.

Blu-ray U.S.


Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

15

Alien Planets

(44 min.)
written and directed by Douglas J. Cohen

A short history of the search for extrasolar planets, from laughing stock obscurity to fascinating leading edge of hard science. The episode details many of the earliest exoplanets found, plus their orbital conditions and climate.
(c) 2007

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Types of Worlds
  3. Hot Jupiters
  4. Extreme Weather
  5. Strange Worlds
  6. Super Telescopes
16

Cosmic Holes

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan

This episode drills into the science behind black holes, white holes, and wormholes. How likely are they to exist? Can they be used as shortcuts or passageways? What are their implications to time/space/choice mechanics? What is their relationship to the Einstein-Rosen Bridge?
(c) 2007

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Wormholes
  3. Time Travel
  4. Black and White Holes
  5. Dueling Black Holes
  6. Tickets to Oblivion
17

Mysteries of the Moon

(44 min.)
written and directed by Kevin Barry
additional writing by Andrew Holland

This episode makes a very cautious presentation of Lunar Transient Phenomena (LTP's), and delivers good info on tides and the Bay of Fundy, and the moon's orbital drift. The episode does not entertain the mystery of the moon's origin, assuming it formed in orbit of Earth instead of being captured later on, and failed to argue its case convincingly or otherwise. The utter low-point is the "COPS"-style search for the full moon to have unique gravitational effects on elements of city crime.
(c) 2007

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Lunar Surface
  3. Effects on Behaviour
  4. Different Perceptions
  5. What if there was no moon?
  6. Reflections from the Moon
18

The Milky Way

(44 min.)
written by Steve Zorn
additional writing by producer Brittany Graham
(no on-screen director credit)

A fascinating look at the geography of our galaxy, how we are hindered at seeing it properly or directly, and the history of the methods employed to learn about it. Other highlights include the Sagittarius A object, the star Mira, and the Milky Way's own galactic collisions in past, present, and future.
(c) 2007

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Neighbourhood
  3. Technology
  4. Gas and Dust
  5. Gravity
  6. Expansion
------ Disc 2 ------
19

Alien Moons

(44 min.)
written and produced by Geoff Miller
directed by Louis C. Tarantino

This episode focuses on
Phobos and Deimos (orbiting Mars),
Io, Europa, and Ganymede (orbiting Jupiter),
Enceladus and Phoebe (orbiting Saturn), and
Triton (orbiting Neptune). Although I would have liked segments on Callisto and the moons of Uranus as well, this is one of the better episodes of the second season.
(c) 2008

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Many Moons
  3. Jupiter: Moon Magnet
  4. Icy and Molten Moons
  5. Irregular Moons
  6. Variety of the Solar System
20

Dark Matter

(44 min.)
written and produced by Rebecca Graham Forde
directed by Douglas J. Cohen

As interesting as the subject matter is, the episode fails to convincingly communicate how and why scientists are so sure that the theoretical estimated mass exerting a distant galaxy's gravitational pull is so much greater than the theoretical estimated mass of what they can see, such that there must be some invisible dark matter that no one can comprehend making up the difference. For a species that has traveled so little in the universe, we assume a lot based on very little. I would not be surprised if dark matter and dark energy theories one day turn out to be an embarrassing dead end in science, abandoned for more sensible theories.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Elusive Dark Matter
  3. The Search for WIMPS
  4. Backbone of the Visible World
  5. Creating Space
  6. Mysteries of the Dark Side
21

Astrobiology

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan Armstrong

How does life first originate? Astrobiologists are exploring this question here on Earth, in the ancient fossil records of Australia, in snowpack areas, and in hot mud geysers, in order to predict the possibilities of life on Mars, Titan, Europa, and unspecified exoplanets beyond.
(c) 2008

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Origins of Life on Earth
  3. Life on Mars
  4. Liquid Water
  5. Planets with Oxygen
  6. Intelligent Life
22

Space Travel

(44 min.)
written and directed by Savas Georgalis

This episode explores the hazards and challenges of space travel, calculates the time for various interplanetary trajectories, and speculates on various new propulsion and flight systems that might make current journeys quicker and make longer journeys possible.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Days of Space Travel
  3. Limits of Time
  4. Through the Looking Glass
  5. The Fabric of Space and Time
  6. Going Beyond
------ Disc 3 ------
23

Supernovas

(44 min.)
written and directed by Andy Papadopoulos

This investigation of Supernovas and our history of observing them peaks as it details how type 1A supernovas became the "standard candle" of astronomical measurements. Will you buy this theory? If not, so many of the greater theories of the cosmos come crashing down as well.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Agent of Change
  3. Exploding Stars
  4. Core Collapse
  5. Greatest Supernovas
  6. Sweeping the Sky
24

Constellations

(44 min.)
written by Steve Zorn & Brittany Graham
directed by Louis C. Tarantino

This episode gives a history of constellations in our culture, and discusses their continuing importance to science, as well as many fascinating specific objects in the heavens. However, it fails to discuss the critical leap from looking at constellations as connect-the-dot figures to the more scientific view of constellations as directional areas with sharply defined borders.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Distance Between Stars
  3. The Changing Night Sky
  4. Astronomy
  5. Companion Stars
  6. Star Motion
25

Unexplained Mysteries

(44 min.)
written and directed by Kevin Barry

This one is like a collection of mini-episodes covering the five topics named in the chapter list to the right. Is there a "Nemesis" brown dwarf orbiting our solar system that can create extinction events like clockwork? One Time Travel / Black Hole researcher hopes to save his father's life in the past, but after acknowledging Level 3 alternate universes, can he ever do more than visit his father's doubles? Also, meet a Mars researcher and his robotic probes whose mission is to "follow the water", underground if necessary. Where is the universe's anti-matter? And can we ever know what came before the Big Bang?
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Earth's Mass Extinctions
  3. Time Travel
  4. Antimatter
  5. Water on Mars
  6. The Big Bang
26

Cosmic Collisions

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan Armstrong

The episode studies the forensic evidence of impacts in the Kuiper Belt and the
"Maldek" asteroid belt, and whether any of these triggered the extinction impacts here on Earth. Luann Becker also gives us a lot of details of a period of extinction events that occurred before the dinosaurs, which somewhat debunks the "Nemesis" theory of the previous episode.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Collision Families
  3. Collisions in our Solar System
  4. Mass Extinctions
  5. Permo-Triassic Extinctions
  6. Galaxy Collisions
------ Disc 4 ------
27

Colonizing Space

(44 min.)
written and directed by Arthur Drooker

Should we give the green light to visiting and colonizing Mars now with current technology, as advocated by the Mars Society, or should we develop better technologies first and/or schedule more test trips to the moon? This episode contrasts and details many aspects of Mankind's plans for Mars.....
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Mars Direct
  3. Hazards of Travel
  4. Planetary Pioneers
  5. Martian Base
  6. Terraforming
28

Nebulas

(44 min.)
written and directed by Darryl Rehr

This is a fascinating celebration of some of the most beautiful objects in the sky. Science intersects with art, as methods of taking images of nebulas are enhanced to reveal more information and look even more breathtaking. Actual images from dozens of nebulas and meticulously researched 3D extrapolations are presented, making this one of the most visually spectacular episodes in the series.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Imaging
  3. Formation
  4. Hubble Palette
  5. Shapes
  6. Supernova Remnants
29

Wildest Weather in the Cosmos

(44 min.)
written and produced by Rebecca Graham Forde
directed by Douglas J. Cohen

This episode presents a top 3 countdown in each of these categories: Wildest Winds, Wildest Tornados, Strange Rains, and Biggest Storms. Winners subsequently detailed include the south pole double vortex on Venus, various great spots on gas planets, and conditions on Hot Jupiter exoplanets and brown dwarf pseudo-stars.

- more details
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Motions in the Atmosphere
  3. Winds
  4. Tornados
  5. Rains
  6. Biggest Storms
------ Disc 5 ------
30

Biggest Things in Space

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan Armstrong

A valiant attempt to wrap our minds around the sheer scale of space objects and distances results in a bit of competition to find the biggest examples of many different types of object. These include the curious favourite of Lymann Alpha Blobs, plus the largest exoplanet found so far, and finally the dominance of Ceres over the rest of the asteroid belt.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Super Clusters
  3. Galaxies
  4. Diameter
  5. Mass
  6. Asteroids
31

Gravity

(44 min.)
written and directed by Andy Papadopoulos

Join Alex Filippenko and Michelle Thaller as they enjoy some fairground rides while talking about how Newton figured out what gravity does, while Einstein worked out why it was doing it. Gravity's math is sloppily presented, such that formulae that only work in specific contexts are presented as universal generalizations instead. Centrifugal force is the only form of artificial gravity proposed in the episode to promote human health on space journeys, with no mention of how a craft can maintain its orientation with such a device in use.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Effects of Mass
  3. Unlocking the Secrets of Gravity
  4. Using Gravity
  5. Artificial Gravity
  6. G-Waves
32

Cosmic Apocalypse

(44 min.)
written and produced by Savas Georgalis
directed by Douglas J. Cohen

This episode explores the far future of the universe with depth and detail. Will the universe end with a fiery Big Crunch, and if so, is it cyclical? Can the life of the universe still be cyclical if it ends with the Big Freeze or Big Rip theories? The depth of time and the evolving state of stars, galaxies, and matter are illustrated expertly by the usual scientists of the program.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Fire and Ice
  3. When the Lights Go Out
  4. Dying Embers
  5. Angels Fear to Tread
  6. Bubble of Hope
--

Backyard Astronomer

(53 min.)
(DVD Bonus featurette)

This bonus feature is practically another episode of the show, and a high ranking one at that, except that there is a new (uncredited) narrator, and no scientist interviews. What it does particularly well is to highlight many of the easiest-to-view objects and point out where to find them in the sky. Knowing when to view them is a bit arbitrary, as many of the circumpolar objects that are visible all year round are distributed amongst the 12 monthly segments such that all segments come to the same length.... and it also seems to assume a northern hemisphere location that can still see significant portions of the south. Still, this is a very nice feature. Programmed chapter stops also make it fairly easy to skip ahead to any segment of interest for reference.
(c) 2008



Chapter List:
  1. Viewing the Planets
  2. That Star is Dying
  3. Phases of the Moon
  4. Behold the Milky Way
  5. The Constellations
  6. Navigating by the Stars
  7. Viewing a Solar Eclipse
  8. Seeing Asteroids & Meteors
  9. Night Sky - January
  10. Night Sky - February
  11. Night Sky - March
  12. Night Sky - April
  13. Night Sky - May
  14. Night Sky - June
  15. Night Sky - July
  16. Night Sky - August
  17. Night Sky - September
  18. Night Sky - October
  19. Night Sky - November
  20. Night Sky - December

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SEASON 3

(2008-09)

This box set includes
the 12 episodes below.

U.S.


Canada

U.K.

Blu-ray U.S.


Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

33

[Deep] Space Disasters

(44 min.)
written and directed by Rob Beemer

After a ridiculous start, this episode soon settles down to recount problems, challenges, and near disasters that astronauts have faced in the past, and moving into the future, how scientists play Devil's Advocate to predict and pre-solve problems that may occur on future space travel or colonization efforts on the moon or Mars. Since the discussion spends most of its time either in Earth orbit or on Mars, the "deep" part of the title feels highly gratuitous.
(c) 2008.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Space Elevator
  3. Space Colonists
  4. Space Crews
  5. Astronauts Outside
  6. Space Collisions
34

Parallel Universes

(44 min.)
written and directed
by Andy Papadopoulos

This episode takes its time to go over the "4 levels" of alternate universe types, along the way detailing the shape of our universe as discovered by the WMAP probe, 11D String-theory and M-theory's application in spawning new bubble universes, the quantum physics behind alternate history universes, and the random physics of fourth level universes.
(c) 2008

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Multiple Universes
  3. Cosmic Bubbles
  4. Other Dimensions
  5. Evidence
  6. Travel Between Universes
35

Light Speed

(44 min.)
written and directed by Darryl Rehr

This documentary touches on a wide variety of phenomena all related to the speed of light, from looking farther into the past the further we gaze in space, to time delays in communicating with astronauts and unmanned probes throughout our solar system, to various illusions of bending light and warping time. Nicely, it teases us with presentations of scientists who slow light down and research faster-than-light travel, but sadly the details there are limited, and once again the case for the common claims about Einstein's theory of relativity remains unconvincing in this presentation.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Limits
  3. Measuring Distance
  4. Theory of Relativity
  5. Slowing Down Light Speed
  6. Star Travel
------ Disc 2 ------
36

Sex in Space

(44 min.)
written and produced by David Rajter
directed by executive producer Louis C. Tarantino

This oft-ridiculed entry spends most of its time on micro-gravity's effects on the development and functioning of mammals from conception to adulthood. Not bad, but there's silly stuff here as well, and the episode doesn't quite rise above the sensationalism that many of its interviewees feel is unhealthy for the subject matter. (c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. The 2suit
  3. Gravity & Fertilization
  4. Taboo
  5. Advantages & Disadvantages
  6. Space Tourism
37

Alien Faces

(44 min.)
written and directed by John Greenewald

In order to wrap our minds around the kinds of life that might exist in the very different environments of extrasolar worlds - so we'll know what to look for and recognize it when we see it, astrobiologists have extrapolated from known science to create some very detailed models of a variety of lifeforms and alien ecosystems which are recounted and brought to life in this episode.
(c) 2008

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Life Beyond Earth
  3. What They'd Look Like
  4. World with Lower Gravity
  5. Water World
  6. Machines
38

Deadly Comets and Meteors

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan Armstrong

This is the one where Amy Mainzer whips up a comet from scratch in a bowl in the lab. She can cook! This episode contrasts asteroids from the Maldek belt with comets from the Kuiper belt / Oort cloud, and examines their composition. Which is more likely to have seeded the Earth with water and building blocks for life? Highlights include discoveries made from the drilling project at the dinosaur-extincting impact site on the Yucatan peninsula, plus the computer simulation comparison of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts on Jupiter with the Tunguska impact in Russia.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Dangerous Impacts
  3. Icy Bodies
  4. Asteroids and Comets
  5. Jupiter: Planetary Shield
  6. Ongoing Threat
------ Disc 3 ------
39

Living in Space

(44 min.)
written by Jason Coffee
directed by Annie Azzariti

This documentary looks at the challenges of living, eating, and driving around on Mars, in a theoretical 23rd century colony. Experiments sealing a group of humans into a self-contained bio-dome environment are reported, where small oversights caused big problems. Many all-terrain vehicles designed for extreme environments and other planets are showcased, along with more flexible streamlined spacesuits. We take a look at how Martian colonists could grow their own food, and what their diet might be like. Finally, our investigations escalate towards the practicality of mining the asteroid belt for all of the industrial needs on Mars.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Mankind's Second Home
  3. Transportation
  4. Space Suits
  5. Space Farmers
  6. Harvesting Asteroids
40

Stopping Armageddon

(44 min.)
written and directed by Arthur Drooker

This is a very thorough look at our ability to detect asteroids and other objects that could potentially impact Earth, how much lead time we would have, and what we might be able to do to deflect them. Much better than the previous "Deadly Comets and Meteors" episode.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Detection
  3. Mitigation
  4. Lasers
  5. Gravity Tractor
  6. When to Act
41

Another Earth

(44 min.)
written and directed by Bob Melisso

The search for exoplanets combines with geology and biology theory to try to predict where we might find a planet similar enough to our own to produce not only life, but a kindred civilization.
(c) 2009

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Theory
  3. Habitable Zones
  4. Super Earths
  5. Alpha Centauri
  6. Kepler Mission
------ Disc 4 ------
42

Strangest Things

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan Armstrong

Several of the series' regular scientific contributors recount the strangest astronomical phenomena and weirdest concepts they've encountered, resulting in a smorgasbord of interesting topics, from the moon Miranda, to the asteroid Toutatis, to planets, stars, galaxies, tiny particles, and concepts of theoretical physics. Definitely one of the most fascinating episodes of the series.
(c) 2008

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Molecular Clouds
  3. Exoplanets
  4. Neutrinos
  5. Ulirgs
  6. Dark Matter
43

Edge of Space

(44 min.)
written and produced by Rebecca Graham Forde
directed by executive producer Louis C. Tarantino

For clarification, this episode's title refers to the starter's edge bordering on Earth atmosphere, not the far frontier of intergalactic void. There is a lot of interesting data here on the various levels of Earth orbit, and which orbits are inhabited by various satellites & collections of space debris. The section on the complex tracking of thousands of pieces of debris and space junk is one of the most eye-opening segments in the entire third season. Also covered are many different plans for sending people into orbit commercially, and the various commercial enterprises that have already put people and spacecraft into space.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Space Diving
  3. Earth Orbit
  4. Space Debris
  5. Genesis Spacecraft
  6. [Kepler Mission] *
It is unclear why the last chapter
is titled Kepler Mission, since
this is not discussed here at all....
44

Cosmic Phenomena

(44 min.)
written and directed by Arthur Drooker

A more apt title might have been "Atmospheric Phenomena with Cosmic Causes", because pretty much everything explored in this episode has an interaction with our atmosphere, or with life on Earth. Some of its better portions discuss auroras, "shooting star" meteors, and the relatively newly discovered phenomena of electrical discharge sprites, plus the transient luminous patches known as elves. Interestingly, the section on ultraviolet radiation and its effects on skin bring out a lot of helpful, true information on the subject, yet don't quite make the leap of awareness of the importance to have unsaturated fats present in the skin to turn potentially harmful rays into Vitamin D producing rays that can power the body up. See 7-time Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Johanna Budwig's book for that.
(c) 2008

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Auroras [ & shooting stars]
  3. Cosmic Rays [ & evolution, sprites, & elves]
  4. The Sun [ & photosynthesis]
  5. Ultraviolet Rays [ & skin]
  6. Rainbows

DVD Bonus Features

  • Universe "Facts" (text pages containing 24 items of trivia)
  • Image Gallery (still photo pages)

SEASON 4

(2009)

This box set includes
the 12 episodes below.

U.S.


Canada

U.K.

Blu-ray U.S.


Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

45

Death Stars

(44 min.)
written and directed by Jim Hense

This episode demonstrates why gamma-ray bursts occur in directional beams from supernovas, and explores many objects that already have or may yet produce a burst. The scientists present excellent, fascinating details of objects like the dying star WR104 and its spiral nebula 8000 light years distant, the stars Eta Carinae and Betelgeuse, and the galaxy 3C321.

Unfortunately the narration repeatedly hypes gamma ray bursts as if they were attacks, like a piece of propaganda. The second half of season four seems to curb this tendency from the writers much better than the first half.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Wolf-Rayet 104
  3. Gamma-ray Burst
  4. Death Star Galaxy
  5. Neutron Stars
  6. Eta Carinae
46

The Day the Moon was Gone

(44 min.)
written and produced by Adrian Maher
directed by Rob Beemer

In the scenario for the first segment, Earth gets to have its moon up until the present day, until it magically vanishes in an instant. The episode soon belongs to interviewed planetary scientist Dr. William K. Hartmann, whose Theia impact theory of the moon's creation is detailed in the second segment. The premise soon changes to speculate what the Earth would be like if it had never had the moon in the first place. The episode explores wild climate fluctuations, incredible winds, shorter days, darker nights, and the unsustainability of life forms as complex as human beings. The real highlights include the examination of the wildly fluctuating tilt of the axis of Mars, and the final question: Is the Earth actually scheduled to lose the moon sometime in the far future?

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Effects on Earth
  3. The Moon's Creation
  4. Moonless Earth
  5. Life Forms
  6. Collision
47

It Fell From Space

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan

This episode details a 2008 asteroid that was spotted in space, tracked until it crashed in the Sudan in Africa, and collected as meteorite fragments. Also examined is the archaeological evidence of a theorized comet impact that may have extended the last ice age and wiped out many large mammal species in North America. Finally, we look at a meteorite impact on the Peru-Bolivia border, the largest collection of meteorites held by any university, and various pieces of man-made space junk that have crashed back to Earth.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Asteroid 2008 TC3
  3. Impacts
  4. Extinction
  5. Meteorites
  6. Space Debris
------ Disc 2 ------
48

Biggest Blasts

(45 min.)
written and directed by Rob Beemer

This episode presents a top ten countdown of the biggest cosmic energy releases known to astronomers - with eleven "winners". Unique highlights include the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts on Jupiter in 1994, an ancient impact on Mars, two exoplanets in a system 300 LY away in Aries that may have had a head-on collision, and the MSA 735 black hole plumes that push entire galaxies apart within their cluster. These are compared to the usual suspects: supernova explosions, the Chicxulub asteroid impact on the Yucatan Peninsula that may have contributed to dinosaur extinction, and even the universe creating "Big Bang" itself.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Energy
  3. Theia Impact
  4. Magnetars
  5. Supernovas
  6. The Big Bang
49

The Hunt for Ringed Planets

(45 min.)
written and produced by Frank Kosa
directed by Douglas J. Cohen

Since this episode pretty much stays within our own solar system, it's not so much a hunt for the planets as it is for the rings around them. Although spending the largest chunk of time on the most obvious rings known - around Saturn - it also examines the lesser celebrated rings detected around Uranus, Jupiter, and Neptune, the search for rings around Pluto, Mars, and transiting exoplanets, and how we humans have created a man made ring of satellites around our own Earth.

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Saturn
  3. How Rings Form
  4. Uranus and Jupiter
  5. Neptune
  6. Pluto
50

10 Ways to Destroy the Earth

(45 min.)
No one takes credit for writing this one, although
in about the same place, James Grant Goldin takes a "produced by" credit.
science consultant Dr. Alex Filippenko
directed by Louis C. Tarantino

This is one of the silliest episodes of this show ever. While the science remains interesting, it often gets short-changed and overshadowed by the episode's drive to sensationalize destruction. Mention of several types of quarks and strange matter was a fascinating topic, sadly brushed aside to return to idle re-run sensationalism yet again. Many of the methods explored (swallowed by a mini-black hole, switching off gravity, etc.) are wildly speculative anyway, and most materialize on cue as though by magic. Not the most useful or interesting episode of the series, I think. Professor Zaroff of "The Underwater Menace" would have fit right in with the other interviewees.


Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Planetary Impact
  3. Stopping the Spin
  4. Black Holes
  5. Antimatter
  6. Parallel Worlds Collide
------ Disc 3 ------
51

The Search for Cosmic Clusters

(45 min.)
written and directed by Darryl Rehr

Star Clusters contain stars of the same age formed from the same material. Using an imaginary spacecraft to travel the universe, this episode contrasts young open clusters in the spiral arms of our own galaxy with older globular clusters in the galaxy's outer edges. Highlights include the examinations of the nearby Pleiades star cluster, the very unusual orbit of M12 around the center of the Milky Way, and the complex calculations needed to simulate interactions of multiple large objects in dense groupings. Also examined are galactic clusters, and how they change and evolve over time, back to the big bang and forward as far as we can imagine. The scale of this episode blows the mind!

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Star Clusters
  3. Superclusters
  4. Globular Clusters
  5. Galaxy Clusters
  6. Future of Clusters
52

Space Wars

(45 min.)
written by Rob Beemer and Samuel K. Dolan
directed by Rob Beemer
dedicated to the memory of season 3 writer Jason W. Coffee

This episode is all about the details and effectiveness of various military ideas to create defences and weapons that operate in space, or against threats from space. The segment on lasers is fairly interesting. Beyond that, the subject isn't covered with much scientific depth, and certainly not with much wisdom. A recap of the far superior late season three episode "Edge of Space" might be a good reminder of why no one should want to create shrapnel and debris in orbit.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Space Weaponry
  3. Atomic Bombs
  4. Rods from God
  5. Lasers
  6. Energy Limitations
53

Liquid Universe

(45 min.)
written and produced by Savas Georgalis
directed by Louis C. Tarantino

This episode is all about the narrow range of temperature and pressure required to cause matter to remain in the elusive middle ground of a liquid form, how different planetary and celestial environments like Titan, Gliese 581 d, Jupiter, and brown dwarfs can cause this to happen to substances like iron, methane, and hydrogen, as well as water, and how these substances might behave differently in these environments. Also explained is the concept of "ice-7".

- more details

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Titan
  3. Methane Lakes
  4. Inside Jupiter
  5. Brown Dwarfs [& Gliese 581]
  6. Europa
------ Disc 4 ------
54

Pulsars & Quasars

(45 min.)
written and directed by Darryl Rehr

How does an object as tiny as a pulsar emit such a powerful magnetic field just from spinning so fast, and why does it appear to blink on and off? Learn about the discovery of the first pulsar, how it got its name, the incredible power and activities of the pulsar at the center of the Crab Nebula, and how pulsars like the Vela pulsar are inspiring musicians with their rhythms and choirs. Plus, "The Universe" finally spills the beans on how we detected the first pulsar planets in 1992.

Then, what are the properties of quasars, and how did they get their name? Are they really remnant cores from older, expired galaxies? How are we detecting these incredibly distant quasars - possibly the oldest objects in the universe?

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Pulsating Stars
  3. Crab Nebula
  4. Vela Pulsar
  5. When Galaxies Collide
  6. Active Galactic Nuclei
55

Science Fiction, Science Fact

(45 min.)
written and directed by Colin Campbell

Regular Alex Filippenko is joined by sci-fi writer/consultants Andre Bormanis and Kevin Grazier to critique the science behind many sci-fi films and TV shows. The Star Trek franchise and its 11th film by J.J. Abrams go under the microscope, along with Back to the Future, War of the Worlds, Independence Day, and Armageddon. Not sure why they fixate on atomic reassembly to make beaming-up possible... I'd aim for interdimensional portal technology for personal teleportation myself. Highlights include a more realistic scenario of a black hole devouring the solar system, the flexibility of the Drake equation, and a look at how well science fiction of the past has predicted the present day. How close are we to achieving some of the advanced technologies imagined in science fiction? The scientific community may be paying more serious attention to these ideas than we might assume...

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Transporter
  3. Black Holes on Earth
  4. Terraforming
  5. Alien Invasions
  6. Time Travel
56

Extreme Energy

(45 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan Armstrong

This episode examines the various energy exchanges and transformations occurring all throughout the universe, and how well it all balances out according to the law of conservation of energy, from black holes ejecting powerful jets, to the steady nuclear burn of regular stars.... Highlights include the exploration of geothermal energy on Io and Earth, the different processes generating it, and the difficulties in harnessing it for commercial use.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Transformers
  3. Solar Power
  4. Supermassive Black Holes
  5. Geothermal Energy
  6. Dark Energy

DVD Bonus Features

  • Featurette: Meteors - Fire in the Sky (9 min.)
    • Segment 1 - Martian Life: ALH 84001
    • Segment 2 - Martian Life: Panspermia
    • Segment 3 - The Impact of Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter, interviewing two of its three discoverers Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy.
  • Featurette: Comets - Prophets of Doom (3 min.)

SEASON 5

(2010)

This box set includes
the 8 episodes below.

U.S.


Canada

U.K.

Blu-ray U.S.


Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

57

7 Wonders of the Solar System

written and directed by Laura Verklan

This is one of the most famous episodes of the series. Five regular scientific contributors to the show take viewers on a ride in a fictitious spacecraft around several highlights of our own solar system, including new photos & data of the ice geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus from the Cassini spacecraft flyby of November 2009.
(c) 2010 (44 min.)

- more details

Chapters:
  • Enceladus
  • Great Red Spot
  • Asteroid Belt
  • Surface of the Sun
  • Earth
58

Mars: The New Evidence

(44 min.)
written and directed
by James Grant Goldin

The Phoenix probe became one of six studying the planet Mars when it landed in the north polar region in 2008. Find out what scientists learned from processing the wealth of data collected at this time, including the three possibilities behind new methane plumes on the surface, and supposedly impossible evidence of liquid water on the surface. How close were we to declaring bacterial life on Mars?

- more details
(c) 2010

Chapters:
  • Searching for Life
  • Water on Mars
  • Shaping of Mars
  • Meteorite Clues
  • Martian Methane
59

Magnetic Storm

(44 min.)
produced and directed by Tim Evans

This episode puts its focus on what seems to be season five's favourite topic: Coronal Mass Ejections from the sun, and of course their possible devastating effects on the infrastructures of our electrical civilization on Earth (which it repeats too often for my taste). The real highlights concern magnetism as a basic force, and the magnetospheres of the sun and each planet of our solar system - how they are generated, how strong they are, and what may have happened to some of them, and how Earth's magnetic poles have reversed several times in past history.
(c) 2010

Chapters:
  • Magnetic Apocalypse
  • Magnetosphere
  • Space Weather
  • Martian Magnetism
  • Power of Solar Flares
60

Time Travel

(44 min.)
written and directed by Darryl Rehr

An excellent episode, perhaps limited in its view of theoretical time travel physics, but making up for it by combining that with other theories creatively, exploring the paradoxes and their elegant solutions. We also spend significant time looking at experimental implications from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

One of the biggest highlights is an unexpected segment exploring everything known at that point about Alpha Centauri's possible exoplanets along with the feasibility of a very nicely visualized round-trip mission.
(c) 2010

- more details

Chapters:
  • Arrow of Time
  • Wormholes
  • Large Hadron Collider
  • Warp Drive
  • Alpha Centauri
61

Secrets of the Space Probes

(44 min.)
written and directed by Jim Hense

This episode is devoted to the workhorses of space exploration: the planetary surveyors, space telescopes, and phenomenon-chasing probes that gather the information and samples that scientists use to make their discoveries. The episode covers the history of our probes, the difficulties in aiming them, launching them, and sustaining them, and what many of their discoveries were...
(c) 2010

- more details

Chapters:
  • Robotic Proxies
  • Propelling Probes
  • Extrasolar Planets
  • Analyzing Comets
  • Solar Probe
62

Asteroid Attack

(44 min.)
written and directed by Rob Beemer

This episode hits paydirt when simply furthering our exploration of asteroids. Highlights include the recounting of past and current missions to asteroid belt objects such as the 2001 Near mission to Eros, the Hayabusa asteroid sample-extracting mission, and the 2007-launched Dawn mission to Vesta (arrival 2011) and Ceres (arrival 2015). The episode also excels when digging into the composition and orbits of asteroids, or indeed comparing various impacts on Jupiter, and how many asteroids of each size-type we've discovered so far versus how much we think is out there. Sadly, there's about 10 minutes worth of screen time wasted on motivating and obscuring the research with the old re-run "It could hit the Earth!" framing idea, repeating impact footage from this episode and previous ones over and over and over. The good bits make the episode worth watching, but it ranks the lowest of all asteroid-impact episodes yet in "The Universe".
(c) 2010

Chapters:
  • Predicting Impact
  • Past Collisions
  • Asteroid Composition
  • Landing on an Asteroid
  • Preventing Disaster
63

Total Eclipse

(44 min.)
written and directed by Darryl Rehr

This episode explores solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, other planet/moon shadows in our solar system, and extends to cover the transit technique used in detecting extrasolar planets. The last segment marks a milestone, as it is the first time in the series to feature hot-off-the-press results from the exoplanet-hunting Kepler Mission.
(c) 2010

- more details

Chapters:
  • Vanishing Sun
  • Learning from Eclipses
  • Coronagraph
  • Solar Maximum
  • Light Curves (Kepler Mission!)
64

Dark Future of the Sun

(44 min.)
written and directed by Laura Verklan

This is the one where Alex Filippenko goes cruising in a white sports car and compares the varied states of his fuel tank to the sun's energies during the various stages of its life span. Highlights include ideas for changing the Earth's orbit to survive the red giant phase, and climatic changes on Mars and other planets during the various phases, plus a look at exoplanets that survived drastic phases of their suns Chi Cygni (reported here to be 50 LY away) and 391 Pegasi.
(c) 2010

Chapters:
  • Life of the Sun
  • Red Giant
  • Solar Apocalypse
  • Demise of the Sun
  • White Dwarf


Okay, this is where it gets tricky....
This next box set has 14 episodes (count 'em), which it calls season six.
Many other sources say only the first 7 episodes from 2011 belong to season six, and the 7 episodes after that from 2012 constitute season seven. As we are listing episodes by DVD/Blu-ray box sets, we'll defer to what the DVD sets contain. But note the discrepancy.

This has a knock-on effect, as the numbering of later seasons continues the confusion....

SEASON 6

(2011)
(2012)

This box set includes
the 14 episodes below.

U.S.


Canada

U.K.

Blu-ray U.S.


Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

65

Catastrophes that Changed the Planets

(44 min.)

written and directed by Laura Verklan
supervising writer Gabriel Rotello

This episode presents a countdown of ten events that impacted the other planets of our solar system, and manages to have a fresh take even on those that were mentioned in previous episodes. Every major planet is involved somewhere, and not all events are impacts. Disappointingly, each of the impacts is an individual story, often with unknown objects coming in out of nowhere to hit our familiar neighbours, and we don't connect the dots to imagine our solar system with more planets in different configurations at earlier stages. No one yet dares to tackle the theory of Maldek breaking apart to form the asteroid belt. However, it seems the more we learn about our solar system, the less it resembles an orderly set of 8 fairly stable, almost circular orbits. Though the scientists give a lot of good information, the narration is stuck in a "threat-mentality" much too often for its own good, and more so than most other episodes of this season.
(c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2011 October 25

Chapters:

  • Mantle Disaster - Shattered Moon
  • Lunar Cataclysm
  • Eruptions and Meltdowns
  • Comet Impacts
  • Planetary Armageddon
66

Nemesis: The Sun's Evil Twin

(44 min.)

written by Savas Georgalis
directed by Douglas J. Cohen

In addition to the usual gang, Richard Muller is on hand to explain his theory of an undiscovered dark red dwarf star orbiting our sun elliptically in a 26-million-year cycle, which might explain a perceived regularity of extinction-by-comet events in Earth's history. Might new infrared sky surveys by the WISE satellite finally reveal this object? The fourth of the episode's five segments is actually the most interesting, as observed comet patterns indicate the existence of a much smaller object called "Tyche", a planet 4 times the mass of Jupiter orbiting the outer reaches of the solar system. Mike Brown is also on hand to take us through his 2003 discovery of the dwarf planet Sedna, and to show us what this object's bizarre orbit can tell us about the possibility of other big undiscovered objects so far out. (c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2011 November 1

Chapters:

  • Mass Extinction Patterns
  • Nemesis Theory
  • Hunt for Evidence
  • Mysterious Planetoids
  • Imminent Cosmic Threat
67

How the Solar System was Made

(44 min.)

written and directed by Darryl Rehr

Though many of the ideas in this episode have been presented before, this documentary is unique in bringing it all together and presenting it chronologically and coherently, charted along a timeline of the first 700 million years of our 4.6 billion year old solar system. This is definitely the best documentary to tackle the subject I have ever seen. Though it is mentioned that our sun had brothers and sisters born at the same time, the documentary misses out on our being part of a Sirius trinary system, as well as the idea of a fifth planet that broke up to form the asteroid belt. Excellent points include the concept of Uranus and Neptune swapping positions, and how gravitational slingshotting affects the large planets when they do a lot of it over time. Near the end, we also get some tantalizing glimpses of other solar systems discovered by the Kepler space telescope.
(c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2011 November 8

Chapters:

  • Presolar Cloud Collapse
  • Planetesimals
  • Inner Planets
  • Outer Planets
  • Violent Bombardments
68

Crash Landing on Mars

(44 min.)

written and directed by James Grant Goldin

This episode explores the challenges and contingencies of an early pioneer landing on Mars in a scenario where the habitat module and crew crash land off course, many miles from the Earth-Return Vehicle meant to bring them back home. Live-action actors re-enact most of the story beats that the scientists envision, a noticeable improvement over the CGI-only figures of past episodes, as this crew clambers into its surface rover to drive through Mariner Valley to their new destination. Along this adventure, we learn much about Martian surface atmospheric conditions, and how we and our technology might best interact with it.
(c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2011 November 22

Chapters:

  • Near Future Scenario
  • Survival Technology
  • Unexpected Encounters
  • Potential Dangers
  • Martian Environment
69

Worst Days on Planet Earth

(44 min.)

written and directed by Laura Verklan

This is a much better episode than its awful title or disastrous framing could suggest, as it contains a 40-minute core history of how the evolving Earth supported different kinds of life at various points, and what happened to change the Earth and the variety of life it was nurturing. Even obvious events that have attained legendary re-run status in the series by this point such as the Chicxulub dinosaur extinction are filled with controversial new theory and possibilities, while the earlier bombardment phases do justice to describing the very different environment of Earth at those times. Highlights include exploration of the mega-ice-age Snowball Earth periods, and discussion of the solar system's position in its galactic orbit during some of these events. It's just too bad we have to hold our noses at their ridiculously vain attempts to entice us by citing threat and disaster as each segment opens or closes.
(c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2011 November 29

Chapters:

  • Heavy Bombardments
  • Snowball Earth
  • Ordovician Extinction
  • KT Extinction
  • Solar Apocalypse
70

UFO: The Real Deal

(44 min.)

written and directed by James Hense

This documentary spends most of its time discussing interstellar spacecraft design and propulsion systems, believe it or not, featuring some awesome actual test footage of the Orion system proposed in the 1960's. Only the first segment is really centered on the Unidentified Flying Object phenomenon, during which we get some nice details about important firsts in our culture surrounding some of the ideas. The last segment in particular feels like an odd left turn into some re-run territory that is really not impressive in what it presents. Though not too bad an episode, it perhaps could have found greater cohesion with a different title, with narration framed under a different topic. Did we really need to reverse-engineer theoretical extra-terrestrial craft in order to believe in UFO's enough to investigate actual reports?
(c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2011 December 13

Chapters:

  • UFO Sightings
  • Interstellar Travel
  • Anti-matter Rocket
  • Mother Ship
  • Machine Intelligence
71

God and the Universe

(44 min.)

written and produced by Daniel Snyder
directed by Louis C. Tarantino

Most of the conflict in debates for or against God usually arises out of differences in how the terminology is defined, and that certainly appears to be the case in the first few segments of this episode as many re-run creation-of-the-universe concepts from earlier episodes are repeated, and then thrown at the God question. The episode's biggest highlight is presented by Leonard Mlodinow who, along with Stephen Hawking, came up with the "No Boundary Proposal" in their book "The Grand Design" - a fascinating all new idea of what is at the "beginning" of the universe, worthy of further examination and its screentime here. Some nice big concepts are tackled late in the show, with all due auras of grandness, yet the futility of making a debate out of the central question seems a bit old and tired.
(c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2011 December 20

Chapters:

  • Multiple Universe Theory
  • String Theory
  • Exploring Order of Nature
  • No Boundary Proposal
  • Advanced Alien Species
72

How Big, How Far, How Fast

(44 min.)

written and produced by Savas Georgalis
directed by Louis C. Tarantino
additional writing/producing by Darryl Rehr

This episode's focus is to create human-scaled metaphors to make large astronomical measurements more easily understandable. The size/distance examples in segments two and three work fairly well, which feature a yellow bowling ball representing our sun, and then compared to larger stars and smaller planets, with our solar system spaced out on an airstrip runway. The first segment's mass/gravity metaphors aren't so good... but stay tuned for the better bits. The final segment is good again, visualizing the distance of grain-of-sand-sized Alpha Centauri from the Griffith Observatory, and the distances between galaxies.
(c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2012 April 29

Note the huge gap in the air dates between this episode and the last. A mid-season break, or the start of a whole new season? Opinions differ wildly....

Chapters:

  • Titans of the Galaxy
  • Massive Stars
  • Distance From Sun
  • Speed of Light
  • Distance Between Stars
73

Alien Sounds

(44 min.)

written and directed by Darryl Rehr

After an introductory section to explain the various ways that sound can be transmitted through space and the atmospheres of alien worlds, this episode proceeds through a top ten countdown of alien hits... as selected by astronomers. The sounds are increasingly more complex and interesting as the documentary goes on. Sounds you might expect to return from previous episodes crop up fairly early on, while later segments feature all new stuff, and only one of the ten slots is used to cover the entire spectrum of pulsars, with many excellent examples heard. Highlights include some very detailed examinations of Ganymede and many other outer moons of the solar system, as well as the spacecraft probes that explored them and "listened in".
(c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2012 May 6

Chapters:

  • Early Cosmic Sound
  • Deep Tones
  • Beats, Rings and Jazz
  • Eerie Sounds
  • Planet Echoes
74

Our Place in the Milky Way

(44 min.)

written and directed by James Grant Goldin

Where is our solar system in relation to the spiral arms of our galaxy? Learn more about the objects that are closest to us in the galactic neighbourhood - the orange dwarf Gliese 710 coming towards us, the brown dwarf at a cool 80 degrees Fahrenheit, Epsilon Eridani, the exoplanet Kepler 16b, the "homeless" planets, the supernova candidate HR 8210.... and find out why we might just be in the most perfect place in the galactic habitable zone....

- more details
(c) 2011 December


Original Air Date: 2012 May 13

Chapters:

  • Galactic Habitable Zone
  • Magnetic Fields
  • Unpredictable Neighbors
  • Exoplanets
  • Supernova Explosions
75

Deep Freeze

(44 min.)

written and directed by Colin Campbell

This episode examines the flow of energy from hot to cold, beginning with the high temperatures of the big bang and finishing with the theorized end of the universe in a deep freeze. Along the way, many of the coldest places we know of are examined, from brown dwarfs cool enough to touch, to the dwarf planets Pluto and Sedna, to exoplanets orbiting other stars and rogue planets cast loose into interstellar space. The episode also looks at ecosystems that can survive extreme cold on many of these places, including Europa, Enceladus, and some wildly extreme conditions on Earth.
(c) 2011/2012

- more details


Original Air Date: 2012 May 20

Chapters:

  • Coldest Corners
  • New Horizons Mission
  • Icy Exoplanets
  • More Frigid Places
  • Ultimate Deep Freeze
76

Microscopic Universe

(44 min.)

written and produced by Daniel Snyder
directed by Louis C. Tarantino

The focus of this episode is actually much smaller than microscopic - it goes down to the quantum level, and asks questions to try to get a handle on the remarkably different style of physics at work at this scale. We actually see a quantum computer and its operators, although the show remains vague on exactly what it is about this machine that makes it different. The double-slit experiment was perhaps better demonstrated in "What the Bleep Do We Know?", but this episode goes a step further in offering some more recent variations and theories about it. Clifford Johnson's game of billiards is re-visualized as though it was taking place on the quantum level. Later sections go into more detail concerning the fundamental structure of the universe. Despite some sections not going into enough detail to satisfy, this one still managed to be quite a mind-bender and mind-blower.
(c) 2011


Original Air Date: 2012 June 3

Chapters:

  • Quantum Physics
  • Double-Slit Experiment
  • Uncertainty Principle
  • Dark Matter
  • String Theory
77

Ride the Comet

(44 min.)

written and directed by Laura Verklan

This episode completes the obvious in its first segment: taking the show's imaginary spacecraft to the Oort cloud, figuring out which comets out there are good to land on and which not, and following one of them through its entire orbit around the sun. A lot of specific comets are studied during the remainder of the episode, with recaps of the various probes making observations, and the unique things we've learned from each encounter. Even with repeat information poking through here and there, this is one of the most complete documentaries ever on the subject of comets.
(c) 2012


Original Air Date: 2012 June 10

Chapters:

  • Interlopers
  • Frozen Artifacts
  • Bizarre Behavior
  • End States
  • Colossal Power
78

When Space Changed History

(44 min.)

written and directed by James Hense

The theme of this episode is the search for evidence of astronomical events that have influenced the last 15 thousand years of Human history here on Earth. Sadly the idea's proponents can only think of one type of astronomical event - an asteroid and/or comet hitting the Earth. Since this has been done to death on "The Universe" by this point, it results in a fairly dull episode. The first two historical periods affected, taking up the first 60% of the episode, are fairly well-documented by the Holocene Impact Working Group, and did present a lot of new information. Too bad theories of our solar system's past involvement with Sirius don't get run by our scientists, to give the show some variety.

Later, we get a re-run of a North American extinction theory which doesn't seem to have anything new in it. The documentary is really reaching later on, when it pushes to give a comet credit for making Emperor Constantine decide that the Roman Empire would switch to Christianity in 312 A.D. Surely the Emperor must have seen something convincing in the religion before he saw anything in the sky, or the religion would not have been his first thought....
(c) 2012


Original Air Date: 2012 June 17

Chapters:

  • Catastrophic Impacts
  • Dramatic Cooling
  • Controversial Events
  • Air Bursts
  • Unresolved Craters

SEASON 7

(2014)
Ancient Mysteries Solved

This single disc includes
the 4 episodes below.

U.S.


Canada

U.K. Blu-ray U.S.


Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.
79

Stonehenge

(44 min.)


Original Air Date: 2014 March 1
80

Pyramids

(44 min.)


Original Air Date: 2014 March 8
81

Heavenly Destruction

(44 min.)


Original Air Date: 2014 March 15
82

Star of Bethlehem

(44 min.)

Original Air Date: 2014 March 22

NEW EPISODES

(2015)
Not yet on DVD
83

Omens of Doom


Original Air Date: 2015 April 18
84

The Eye of God

Topics include the hexagonal pattern on Saturn's north pole.


Original Air Date: 2015 April 25
85

Apocalyptic Visions


Original Air Date: 2015 May 2
86

Alien Worlds


Original Air Date: 2015 May 9
87

Predicting the Future


Original Air Date: 2015 May 16
88

Roman Engineering


Original Air Date: 2015 May 23


New for July 5, 2017:

"Venus Greenhouse" reviews:

Harsh environments, such as Venus with its runaway greenhouse effect, can trigger our worries of achieving truce and harmony with our own environment here on Earth. But can we respond thoughtfully and carefully, or will we panic and do something silly?


Cosmos 4: Heaven and Hell - Comets, Impacts, Venus
Cosmos 13: Who Speaks for Earth? - Cultural Leadership and Wisdom
The Universe 7: "Mercury & Venus: The Inner Planets"

New for June 12, 2017:

The "Intelligent Life" reviews:
How much polarization still exists in the Human attitude towards
Extra-Terrestrial life? How many conflicting beliefs do we still entertain?
Is there a way to reconcile these differences?
Here, we examine several documentaries with different slants on the issues:

Cosmos 11: The Persistence of Memory
Cosmos 12: Encyclopaedia Galactica
The Universe 13: Search for E.T.
Ancient Aliens 1: Chariots, Gods, and Beyond

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