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Featured TV on DVD Review: The Universe: Season Six

May 13th, 2012

The Universe: Season Six - DVD or Blu-ray

So much for my review for The Complete Series. Fans of The Universe were happy the show got a sixth season when it looked like the show was over for good, but after half a decade, have they run out of interesting topics?

  1. Catastrophes that Changed the Planets
    A countdown of the biggest and most violent events in the history of our solar system.
    If you like science stories about big events, there's plenty to like about this episode. However, like last season's opening countdown, they can't go into any real depth for any of the events.
  2. Nemesis: The Sun's Evil Twin
    There's something strange in our record of mass extinction events. They seem to happen with stunning regularity. Such clockwork timing suggests there's an outside force at work here. Perhaps there's a twin star orbiting the sun in an eccentric orbit sending comets hurling towards the planets, including Earth?
    I was a little worried about this episode given the title. (Evil twin? Really?) But it wasn't as over-the-top as I was worried about. It was informative without getting all "Mayan Death Calendar".
  3. How the Solar System was Made
    This episode is mostly self-explanatory; it explains what happened during the first 700 million years of our solar system. It also discusses different ways star systems can form.
    It took till season six to get to this? There are a few problems with The Universe that tend to come up over and over again. One of them is too many analogy. This episode has too many of them.
  4. Crash Landing on Mars
    A look at a possible mission to Mars. More specifically, it looks at what can go wrong, and how the astronauts could survive.
    One of the better episodes of this season. It mostly avoids being sensationalistic while still giving weight to the situation.
  5. Worst Days on Planet Earth
    Another countdown episode. Instead of looking at the most catastrophic events of the solar systems, it is limited to planet Earth.
    This episode has the same strengths and weaknesses as the first episode. (And it actually repeats some of the information.) Overall it is very interesting, but too many topics are looked at so there's a lack of depth here.
  6. God and the Universe
    A scientific look for evidence of God or gods. Or will physics explain it all by itself?
    This episode deals with a tricky subject matter and there's no way to talk about it without offending someone. Say there's evidence for a god and you will offend materialists and certain religious folk. (William of Ockham, the Theologian who popularized Occam's razor, argued that there can be no evidence of God, because evidence would destroy faith. This view is still held by some today.) Say there's isn't any evidence for the divine, and you will certainly offend some religious people. This episode tries too hard to be in the soft middle, but it is otherwise interesting.
  7. UFO: The Real Deal
    Are UFOs real? This episode looks at the beginning of the modern UFO movement to some of the biggest sightings of today. It also looks at the technological needed to build a craft that could do what UFOlogists claim UFOs can do.
    I love how the one scientists points out that any object that is seen flying that can't be immediately identified is a UFO. Going from UFO to "ALIEN!" is a huge leap. Overall it is a good episode that deals with the speculative technology rather than the aliens. On a side note, that material that seems unknown to science that we see in the Roswell photos. It looks like early Mylar. That stuff would seem like science fiction to people when they first saw it.
  8. How big, how far, how fast
    Taking the enormous numbers you find when you explore the universe and giving them a context that most people can understand.
    This episode gets a little silly at times (Monster truck rally?), but it is still very informative.
  9. Our Place in the Milky Way
    The local area of the Milky Way gets to be the focus here. This includes how we don't even really know where the local area is. How can we explore the neighborhood? And what is out there? Did some of it help create life on Earth? And are there dangers are out there that could end life as we know it?
    This episode was very fascinating, as I didn't know we knew so little about our galaxy. It does make sense. After all, it is really hard to make a map of an area if you can never leave the area to take outside measurements.
  10. Alien Sounds
    While we image space is a quiet place, what with there being no air to transmit sounds, objects in space radiate vast amounts of radiation, and this can be thought of as sounds. There are also pressure waves produced by certain celestial objects. This episode counts down the most important 'sounds' of the universe.
    Another countdown episode, which means it can't be very in-depth. It does have a lot of little bits of information.
  11. Deep Freeze
    When we think about the universe, we usually think about the warmest spots. Stars and even planets are usually much, much, much warmer than the vast emptiness of space. This episode, we look at the coldest places.
    This episode nearly put me in a rage. Stop using Fahrenheit. It makes you sound unscientific. We look into something new and that helps it stand out. On a side note, Pluto is a planet. The definition used to exclude Pluto is far too arbitrary and could be used to exclude Earth. When 3753 Cruithne was first discovered, it was thought to be a second moon of Earth. Therefore, Earth hasn't cleared its neighborhood.
  12. Microscopic Universe
    This episode is poorly named. It doesn't deal with the microscopic scale, it deals with stuff that is much, much, much smaller. We look at stuff that is much smaller than even atoms.
    Well, this is something they haven't touched on too often. By season six, repetition has become a real problem, so this episode stands out in a really good way. Also, Quantum Theory is just really cool. One of the best episodes of the season.
  13. Ride the Comet
    A look at comets and how they affected our past and how we plan on learning more about them in the future.
    The time travel aspect is rather gimmicky, which hurts an otherwise strong episode.
  14. When Space Changed History
    A group of scientists going against the norm argue that catastrophic impacts happen a lot more often than we suspect and these impacts have changed the world. One such event they describe is an impact by a comet in the ocean, which could explain the countless flood myths from around the world.
    There's a high amount of speculation here, but it's not crazy "Mayan Death Calendar" speculation, so you can watch without doing a constant face palm. Some might object to the amount of speculation presented here, but speculation backed up by evidence is science, unlike the, "Aliens did it!" arguments you will hear on some other History Channel shows.
Overall, The Universe is growing repetitive. It is becoming a lot harder to finds subjects that we haven't seen done in previous seasons, or even previous episodes within the same season. Additionally, sometimes the analogies can become a little strained and the real world examples are more about the show than the science. (The aforementioned monster truck is a perfect example of this.) That said, while this season is not as strong as the first couple seasons were, it is still worth checking out.

The Extras

Like the previous season, there are no extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray. However, also like the previous season, much of the video quality is amazing. There is archival footage, which brings down the average, but the stuff shot specifically for the show, especially the computer simulations, more than make up for that. The audio is clear, but uncomplicated. As for the price, the Blu-ray costs a mere 15% more than the DVD, which is a fantastic deal.

The Verdict

While fans of the show should be happy The Universe was back for Season Six, most will admit it is become weaker as the seasons go past. I still think the DVD or the Blu-ray are worth picking up, but I can't be as enthusiastic about that as I would be for seasons one and two.

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