Cosmos (2014) Episode 5: Best and Worst
April 8, 2014
Sorry to leave you in the dark yesterday; I was moving Sunday and wasn't able to lighten my load sufficiently to watch the latest episode of Cosmos on time. Luckily, the folks at Fox Broadcasting are bright enough to put the episodes online! So I'm back to chase away the darkness and shine some light onto Episode five, revealing the best and worst of this latest outing.
Episode Five: "Hiding in the Dark"
I liked the way this episode weaved its theme into things. Built around the yin and yang of light and dark, they managed to get the contrast in on several levels, from the literal light and dark stripes on the spectrum, to the pinhole of light shining into the darkened space of a camera obscura, to the light that science sheds on the dark mysteries of the universe. It helped to make the episode feel more connected and coherent than last week's outing, even though it featured the same disparate scatter of topics.
I also noticed a distinct effort in this episode to move the realm of scientific discovery to a wider world than that of Renaissance and modern Western culture. The choice to highlight the stories of Mozi and Alhazen were wise ones for a show aimed at a Western audience who might hold some very poorly informed views about these societies (even if that Mozi telling felt a little melodramatic). The stories also built on the theme of free expression and thinking at odds with authority and power, which has worked its way into almost every episode of the show; it also echoed the episode's metaphor with a light of reason/darkness of oppression thing. All in all, the stories were well used.
Sometimes the things I like best about this show are the little random nuggets of fact. In this episode, it was the aside about the discovery of Carmina Burana in the same monastery as Joseph Fraunhofer worked, though the way Tyson phrased it made it sound like Orff's score was found there rather than the original book of poetry. Relevant to science? No, but neat to Lit majors like myself. [And speaking of references, I can't have been the only one to notice Dark Side of the Moon in there. Ha!]
Lastly, I have to mention that perspective shot of the Spaceship of the Imagination standing like a monolith in the desert night. I know it was all special effects, but that shot just looked cool.
In this episode, the writers decided that it would be a clever idea for Tyson to start talking to the animations. It wasn't a choice that played well, coming off as little moments of forced acting in Tyson's otherwise natural delivery of the scientific narrative. They should have let the animations serve the purpose of illustrating the story, and let Tyson remain as the detached narrator.
Also, what was up with that jiggly camera work when Tyson was walking through the forest? I almost expected the Blair Witch to pop out. Especially since the sequence also seemed to set up that "what is that noise?" mystery that, as far as I could tell, never actually had a resolution. Are they seeding a "plot" into the series? Will the mysterious noise follow us next week? Or was it just some poorly inserted reference to hidden light that just completely failed to register later in the episode? Neither possibility is a good one.
Now It's Your Turn
What did you think about this latest episode? Let's talk about it in the comments section. And I will be back next week for the newest installment.
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