Cosmos (2014) Episodes 6 & 7: Best and Worst
April 24, 2014
Many apologies, my fellow Cosmos watchers. As I mentioned previously I been moving, and if you've ever experienced a move before you know how disruptive it can be. Packing, unpacking, moving furniture ... I went a whole week without being able to find the DVR remote! So I'm delivering a double-sized catch-up today, to get me back on track before the next episode. Ready?
Episode Six: "Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still"
There were a lot of little things I enjoyed about this episode. It was full of interesting facts, the kind of things that I never really thought about -- mostly about the way atoms work. We don't ever actually touch anything, thanks to the way atoms work? Neat. Nuclear fusion is literally when atomic nucleaii touch? Double neat. This was an episode rich with memorable nuggets of trivia.
Speaking of the concept of touching, I loved this line: "Take it easy dad -- he never really touched her," after the shy little boy reached out for his sweetheart's cheek. If only I knew this as a kid! Such knowledge would give every eight year old the perfect, science-based retort to torture their younger siblings with "What? I'm not touching you! Our atoms never even touch!"
And hey look, tardigrades! I was so sad when Tyson gave these extraordinary critters little more than a name-check a few episodes back. So happy to see the waterbears come back for a more detailed -- what? The segment is over already? Bummer.
Finally, the segment in Super-Kamiokandae Neutrino Observatory was super-cool, just for the visual it offered. The producers knew a good thing when they saw it, and they went with it (even if Tyson looked a little silly sitting in that dinghy). Also, I am so sincerely wishing that those flashes of light were actual neutrino hits and not staged FX, though I don't have my hopes up.
While I loved a lot of the individual moments in this episode, it regressed a bit in the "cohesive whole" department. This series sways back and forth between episodes with a cohesive narrative and episodes with loosely based themes, and this was one of the latter. Moreover, it was one of the worst, in my mind, from a transitional standpoint. From burning rain forests ... how smell works? From the science of inhalation to ... Ancient Turkey? Each segment was fascinating by itself, but as a whole it stumbled.
Also, this line: "Well need a ship with twin engines of science ... and imagination!" I am fairly certain they lifted that line straight from Figment the dragon.
My love/hate relationship with the animation continued with the segment on Ancient Turkey. On the whole, it seemed to take a step backwards this episode. In particular, Democritus was just bizarrely designed and animated. Those rosy cheeks, that rictus grin -- I couldn't wait for that segment to end.
Episode 7: The Clean Room
In general, I really liked this episode. The episodes that build themselves around a science history narrative just hold up better generally, and I found the narrative of Clair Patterson's fight to uncover the dangers of lead a particularly compelling one. This is one of my favorites of the series so far. Using the discovery of the danger of lead as its narrative focus allowed them to tell us a lot of interesting science, and it also opened the door to some criticism of religion and government. Good stuff.
The segment discussing the actual health dangers of lead was especially compelling. I'd reason that the average audience member knows that lead is dangerous, but they probably couldn't say why. A little grounding in the reality of lead poisoning makes the danger more real (and more interesting).
Also, I am a sucker for this shows cosmic spectacle FX and so I totally ate up the "new Earth" sequence. It was just plain cool.
I don't have a lot to really criticize in this episode. It was a well-balanced episode. The story was compelling, the science was interesting, and Tyson was a solid narrator of the whole affair. I can't point to anything I really wish they'd done differently.
Even the animated scenes didn't bother me as much. While I still question the styalistic choices they made, the animation style really does better with modern day settings than it does with historical ones. Clair Patterson was far less creepy than Democritus! And the voice acting was solid in this one, too.
Now It's Your Turn
What did you think of these two episodes? Or about the series as a whole so far? Let us know in the comments.
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