Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cosmos: The Next Generation

Click the arrow to watch a trailer for the new “Cosmos” series coming in 2014 on Fox.

For my generation of space geeks, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage remains an iconic awakening to the forces of the universe.

Star Trek made me dream about space exploration. But it was Cosmos that made me think about how these dreams could become reality.

Its creator, Carl Sagan, was arguably the first person (other than perhaps Albert Einstein) to make geekery cool. Cosmos, which aired on PBS in the fall of 1980, made him a national celebrity.

Carl Sagan on the cover of the October 20, 1980 issue of Time magazine.

Ever the citizen activist, Sagan parlayed his newfound fame into creating The Planetary Society, one of the nation's largest space advocacy groups. He offended Creationists by stating in a Cosmos episode, “Evolution is a fact, not a theory. It really happened.” He was arrested twice for protesting nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site.

Carl Sagan's cosmic calendar.

Sagan died all too young at age 62, from pneumonia after suffering from myelodysplasia. He died seven months before the release of the film Contact, based on his novel by the same name.

One of Sagan's acolytes was Neil Degrasse Tyson. Sagan tried to recruit Tyson to come to Cornell, but instead he went to Harvard.

Those of us who grew up with the Sagan phenomenon see many similarities in Dr. Tyson, although so far he hasn't gone into citizen activism. We've yet to see Neil chain himself to a pillar outside Congress to draw attention to chronic underfunding of the sciences, for example.

Anyway, Tyson seemed the natural choice when it was decided to do another Cosmos series. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey will air on the Fox network in the spring of 2014.

I'm disappointed it won't be on PBS, and Fox isn't exactly known for a passionate support of science, but the show's pedigree includes Sagan's original collaborators, Ann Druyen and Steven Soter. Sagan married Druyan in 1981 and they remained together until he died in 1996.

Former Star Trek writer and producer Brannon Braga is also with the new show, as a director and executive producer. Braga joined Star Trek during The Next Generation, so it's only fitting that he would be involved with the next generation of Cosmos.

The trailer at the top of this article was released last weekend at the San Diego Comic Con. It features several homages to iconic moments in the original Cosmos, such as the dandelion, the cosmic calendar and a starship of the imagination.

Speaking of homages ... SCTV aired on July 16, 1982 a parody of a behind-the-scenes tour of the Cosmos set by Sagan, as played by Dave Thomas. A mediocre transfer is on YouTube; watch below.

July 16, 1982 ... SCTV parodies Carl Sagan and “Cosmos.”

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