Top critical review
65 people found this helpful
Full of enthusiasm, but very light watching
on 17 October 2010
I was bought this as a present, and I enjoyed it for the entertainment value, very much indeed. It is nicely presented and the Blu-Ray format does it no harm either, so for those reasons it would get five stars.
My personal caveat is that if you know even the most basic elements of astronomy, this DVD will tell you nothing at all that is new, instead it reads more like one scientists pursuit of the dream holiday, fully of whizzy activities that are supposed to enliven the message. Which is fine, if you don't already know the message! I've also been able to see Earth from 60,000 feet - albeit drinking a G&T at the time - so even the upper air parts of the documentary are somewhat familiar.
So, my background of a few decades of interest in the universe is not going to see this as revelatory, and although the graphics are a nice reinvention/re-visioning of what I already know, there is sometimes repetition and quite often the episodes cover similar ground (also a problem with "South Pacific", which repeats footage a little more often). For me, that knocks off a couple of points because the repetitions accumulate to a significant amount of time that could be used for wider issues, such as near-Earth asteroids, and perhaps digging in a little more on the problems of robotic space exploration (even "simple" things such as the time delay in commanding a distant probe to do something, and it actually receiving the command). I know the series is really just to expose the wonders of the solar system to people new to the topic, but a little more about the human ingenuity in devising explorers would have been enough to being it back up to 4 stars.
Don't get me wrong, the BBC are good at what they do, and not every programme will hit the mark for everybody, but they do tend to skim the surface of the subjects and end up somewhat as simple entertainment rather than the original notion of a "documentary" (I'd class it as lighter even than "popular science"). The redoubtable Patrick Moore would probably balk at explaining his subject so lightly, but I'd get a whole lot more from what he said - the problem is that the series would run to 24 disks. :)
For those people unfamiliar with our local patch in space, it is an easy 5 stars, and those folk have probably awarded it just that!
If you are buying this as a gift for someone who's "mad about space", I'd have to say "think carefully". How much do they already know? Are they already observing using a telescope? Can they name even just ten craters on the moon? Name the Galilean moons and know where they are (and even give a potted history of Galileo)? Know what the Oort cloud is? A Lagrange point? In other words, do they talk about deeper aspects already, in which case it might be better to look for something deeper, or simply something else.
If you're buying it for family entertainment and not everybody in the family is a propellerhead about astronomy, go for it, it's a nice introduction. The problem then is that for anyone that develops an interest in the subject, it will quickly become irrelevant.