The Complete Fifth Season
Studio: History Channel
US Rating: NR
Film Length: 6hrs, 16Mins
Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 1.78:1
Audio: PCM 2.0 (Uncompressed) Audio
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Review Date: January 17, 2011
“In the beginning there was darkness, and then – Bang – giving birth to an endless expanding existence of time, space, and matter. Everyday new discoveries are unlocking the mysterious the mind-blowing, the deadly secrets of a place we call – the Universe. "
The Show: 4 out of 5
There’s a wannabe astrophysicist inside me wanting to get out. If I was just a little smarter, and demonstrated a penchant for remembering the complex mathematics that are ingrained requirements of that fascinating scientific field, I would be applying to be apprentice to Dr. Neil DeGrasse Dyson with disturbing frequency. But alas, that is not the path meant for me, and so shows like The History Channels The Universe serve up delicious, lamens-term loaded eye and brain candy that dance on the precipice of the meaty mechanics that churn at the center of understanding the rich and riveting realities of the realm of everything around our little blue planet.
Confidently narrated by Erik Thomas, the approach of The Universe is to explore the fantastic side of science, and explore the giddy, tantalizing spheres of possibility in the quest to understand the universe around us. And the balance between ideas grounded in plausible scientific hypothesis, and the outright off-the-wall, upper end of possibilities spectrum (more commonly the realm of science-fiction than science fact) is reasonably well maintained.
This season, shorter than the others, covers topics including time travel and asteroid attacks, each rendered with solid animation and a good balance of science and science-fiction. The first episode of the season, ‘7 Wonders of the Solar System’ plays like a best of – a countdown – but entertains nonetheless.
The Universehas at its disposal a talented team of computer animators bringing to life in vivid detail, and with exciting visuals, many of the concepts explored in each episode. In the episode the covers 10 ways in which the earth could be destroyed, the CGI artists clearly have had fun smashing, disintegrating, and cracking apart our fair blue planet. It is this sense of fun and wonder that makes this show such a pleasure to watch. The series’ explores scientific possibility mixed with excellent CGI work and interviews (and explanations) with and from some noted cosmologists, astronomers, and astrophysics. I used to note that a cynic might call The Universe ‘dumbed-down’ science, and as the series continues, the depth to which the subjects is explored is becoming lesser, but I would still challenge the notion that The Universe is flimsy science.
Episode 1: 7 Wonders of the Solar System
Episode 2: Mars: The New Evidence
Episode 3: Magnetic Storm
Episode 4: Time Travel
Episode 5: Secrets of the Space Probes
Episode 6: Asteroid Attack
Episode 7: Total Eclipse
Episode 8: Dark Future of the Sun
The Video: 4 out of 5
The quality of the video presentation of The Universe is remarkably consistent from season to season and so I was not surprised to find this fifth season looking just as good on blu-ray as the others. The computer generated graphics are incredibly sharp, super-clean, fluid, and high-quality rendered. The filmed sequences, including the interviews with guests and regular experts, and the analogous demonstrations filmed, look good here. Only the occasional use of stock footage stands out as being of poorer quality (as you can expect from stock footage). The Universe is a bright show, with vibrant yellows, blues, reds, and greens used in the graphics really showing off the look of this show.
The Sound: 2.5 out of 5
Once again, The History Channel presents the season’s episodes with an underwhelming PCM 2.0 uncompressed audio, again lacking in depth and dimension that you will find catching the series on History’s HD station. Still, Erik Thompson’s narration, and the voices of those interviewed, still come through cleanly – though from the front channels rather than the center – and despite being quite crisp, the lack of boom and rumble is a shame.
The Extras: 0 out of 5
No special features are included with this set.
I have had the pleasure of reviewing several releases of The History Channel’s series, The Universe, and as an avid fan, I take great joy in revisiting the episodes. Season five is short by comparison, just 8 episodes, and recently, the sparkle and awe of the series has begun to wane. While the series often still explores subjects of legitimate scientific weight and intrigue, more and more it is becoming sidetracked with explorations of less-solid ‘what-if’s’, that hurt the more absorbing tone of the show.
Having said they, The Universe is still very entertaining television, and season five has some highlight episodes, including the new evidence covered from Mars, and the ‘secrets’ of the space probes.
Overall 3.5 out of 5