15th January 2002
In yet another ground breaking series the BBC proves itself to be one of the, and if not the, best documentary producers on the planet. We all know how good their wildlife documentaries are so when the BBC turned their attention to the heavens expectations were high. So, with David Attenborough being strictly animals, it is down to Sam Neill to explain all.
There's nothing like diving in at the deep end and getting down to the nitty gritty facts. After the first episode explains where we all came from, the second soon explains how lucky we've been by not being destroyed by a comet or asteroid hurtling its way through the solar system. If you thought things couldn't get any worse for the planet then the following episode goes on to repeat how lucky we've been by not being sucked into a passing black hole. It goes on to report that our galaxy is full of blacks holes with an absolutely massive one at the heart of our galaxy.
If you can manage to watch that from behind the sofa then the subsequent episodes asks whether we're alone in the universe and how we may go about exploring new worlds. Oh, and just for good measure another episode explains how the sun will engulf our solar system and burn the earth to a crisp. Nice.
- Star Stuff
- Staying Alive
- Black Holes
- Are We Alone?
- New Worlds
- Boldly Go
The picture is bright and colourful with the computer generated graphics looking absolutely fabulous, even with a relatively low bit-rate. There are a few problems with the blue screen technology used as Sam Neill occasionally suffers from edge enhancements whilst he points and gesticulates at the miniature galaxy graphics. Also some of the older film stock on show is extremely grainy with plenty of dust scratches, but that can be excused for something that has been shot into space or burnt to a cinder on a launch pad.
I was initially cursing the BBC as the packaging claimed that the sound was in full blown Dolby 5.1 whilst my player protested it was only Dolby Stereo. However, after two episodes I discovered a second audio track with an impressive Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. Whenever the programme switches to CGI graphics of the various planets, galaxies and black holes the whole soundstage comes alive with a vast array of effects. It's just a pity that standard television broadcasts can't carry soundtracks of this quality.
The menus are nicely animated and scored with some of the CGI pinched from the series. One minor disappointment on the disc are the extras. Although the behind the graphics featurette is interesting the other extras are just filler material. I soon got bored of the on location film as it just appeared to be footage of someone messing around with a camcorder. The rest of the extras are not worth bothering with.
Whilst the series is excellent the only disappointment is that rather than being based on science fact it is based on largely science fiction. However, if you're interested in space then you'll be more than happy with this beautifully presented series. If you want science fact then I suggest you look at the other superb BBC space based documentary The Planets.
- Photo Gallery
- On Location Film
- Space Fact Encyclopedia
- 'Behind the Graphics' Featurette