Top positive review
234 people found this helpful
on 21 March 2011
This series, and Brian Cox's informal presentation style, always seem to divide opinion, and as I write this there are six other reviews on here, half of them favourable, the other half not.
However, it's telling that the unfavourable reviews are critical of a) the globe-trotting Cox does during the series or b) the level at which the programme's narrative is pitched. Both criticisms are misguided, as it's clear that Cox's intention is not to provide a GCSE curriculum programme, nor to preach to the converted (i.e. astronomers and physicists), but to convey something in particular to the layman.
The clue is in the series' title, and it is wonders - and the sense of wonder at the universe - that Cox is keen to impart. The use of different locations and landscapes as visual metaphors is one part of this approach to the subject matter, and provides the viewer's eye with something to latch on to during what are sometimes reasonably lengthy explanations of nuclear reactions or the life cycle of stars. He could, of course, have increased the amount of CGI on display (and would have got criticised for that too, no doubt), or used more static shots of star fields or diagrams.
But television is a visual medium and it deserves the chance to make the most of the advantages it can offer over books or radio, i.e. supplying visual stimuli. To play to a medium's strength in this way is not showy, nor shallow. It is a direct consequence of choosing to use the medium of television in the first place. The programme chooses to take us to interesting locations because it is attempting to invoke a sense of wonder. And that's easier to do in exotic places than it is in an Open University style studio with a white board in the background.
If you are looking for a precise, and technically detailed, account of our current knowledge of the cosmos, then go read a book on the subject - it's the medium that is most apt for communicating that information. Expecting a TV series to do the same thing is unrealistic, and just a little bit lazy. For example, I loved Jacob Bronowski's 70s series on human progress, 'The Ascent of Man', and learnt a lot from it - but never in as much detail as I could from the books it made me want to go and read afterwards.
In short, if you are looking to be indoctrinated with enthusiasm for the subject matter, and be inspired to go and find out more for yourself, then this is as good a starting point as you could wish to have.