Plot: What’s it about?
A series titled The Universe has a lot of ground to cover, but even in this first season, the show does just that. These fourteen episodes provide an in depth, exhaustive look at the universe that surrounds us. The series tries to answer some big questions, or at least offer as much information as possible, to give us a clearer perspective. The planets are explored in depth, as are the sun and moon, as well as the stars that dot the universe. But the show doesn’t just give us basic information on the planets and such, it also covers topics related to the reaches of space. The prospect of life on other worlds, how the universe started, how it has evolved, and even what lies outside the small portion of space we’re familiar with, these are just some of the issues covered. The information is complimented by some memorable visuals, from archival elements to more recent footage to computer generated animation, all of which helps bring the universe to life.
I knew The Universe would be a great series, given The History Channel’s excellent track record, but I have to say, the series surpassed all of my expectations. When I saw this was Season One, I figured there would be a nice start to the series, but instead, these episodes are loaded from start to finish. There is so much insight packed into these three discs, if there is a Season Two, I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here. As you’d expect from The History Channel, the information is well researched and presented in a way that keeps the audience interested. This is accomplished through insightful expert interviews and as I mentioned above, some terrific visual materials. Some of the space footage is spectacular and makes me wish for a high definition release, as these visuals are beautiful. The animation sequences are also effective, but for me, it is the actual space footage that really shines in this series. If you have even a slight interest in this kind of material, The Universe is simply a must see release and as such, earns a high recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. This 1080i presentation puts the DVD release to shame, with much more refined and detailed images. The visuals are drawn from various sources, so some of the older footage and more basic CGI animation don’t hold up as well, but most of the series looks excellent. This show is all about the visuals, so the space footage really shines and is a pleasure to watch. As I said, not all of the footage is up to that level, but The Universe looks great here and offers a marked improvement over the DVDs.
Audio: How does it sound?
No audio upgrades, which is a disappointment, but this soundtrack is solid. The stereo soundtrack is solid, with no errors and the show sounds fine. The narration is loud and clear, while the interviews sound great too, no concerns whatsoever with the vocals. The music has good presence also, while the various sound effects come across well too. Not much else to say in this case, the show has basic audio needs and they’re well handled here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The lone supplement is the double episode Beyond the Big Bang, which is an excellent special.