That record now travels aboard the two Voyager spacecraft, beyond the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space.
Which is exactly where Druyan hopes to take viewers of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” — a reimagining of the iconic 1980 show of the same name that starred Sagan, the legendary astrophysicist and her late husband.
“Carl made it possible for everyone to feel goose bumps about the grandeur, beauty and romance of life in the cosmos,” Druyan, who worked on both the original and the new show, told the Daily News. “There are many surprises in the new show, and we’re going places that Carl and I in the original series never got to go.”
Sunday night’s premiere (Fox, 9 p.m.) is billed as the largest launch of any TV series ever — with the show airing concurrently on multiple channels in the U.S., and internationally in 171 countries. “Cosmos” is also unique among other prime-time TV shows in that it’s not a family comedy or police drama, but instead a science-based exploration of the known universe. Along with a glimpse into the many things that are unknown and maybe even unknowable.
“What Carl loved about science is that it’s a permanent revolution, it never stops,” Druyan said. “I think he would be thrilled we are doing this new series. It’s not for any one generation to complete anything in science, including its communication to the world.”
The new “Cosmos” is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium here in New York and heir to Sagan’s title of celebrity astrophysicist. As in the original, the host soars through space and time in his “ship of the imagination.”
Of course, the visual effects have gotten a heck of a lot more sophisticated since 1980. The swirling gas clouds of Jupiter and vast expanse of the 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe are now rendered in stunning HD.
“The reality of nature is far more wondrous than anything we can imagine,” explains Tyson in the show, and the visuals back that up.
“Cosmos” is also the story of humanity’s evolution from primitive tribes to an advanced civilization. Part of this history is told through animated segments, an idea from executive producer Seth MacFarlane, who was also instrumental in selling the show to Fox.
But these animations won’t be confused with the “Family Guy” hijinks he’s so much better known for. Instead they trace the struggles of early scientists and astronomers like Giordano Bruno, who fought against an oppressive medieval church.
“What everyone knows is wrong!” cries out Bruno in one animated segment. “Your god is too small!”
Bruno was a 16th century Italian friar and astronomer, burned at the stake for claiming the sun was a star and the universe contained countless worlds. Ten years after his death, Galileo perfected his version of the telescope and proved Bruno’s theories correct.
In future “Cosmos” episodes, other animated characters will be voiced by the likes of Patrick Stewart, Kirsten Dunst and Richard Gere.
The original “Cosmos” is one of the most popular PBS shows of all time, and since 1980 has been seen by an estimated 700 million people worldwide. Sagan also wrote a book version of “Cosmos” as he was making the TV show. It has since been named by the Library of Congress as one of the 88 books that shaped America, along with “The Great Gatsby” and “Gone With the Wind.”
Needless to say, the new version of the show has some big shoes to fill.
In addition to the tragic Bruno story, one of the most poignant moments of the premiere episode is when Tyson takes the entire 13.8 billion age of the universe and condenses it down into one year.
The first second of Jan. 1 is the Big Bang, and the last second of Dec. 31 is the present day. According to this calendar, all life on Earth only appears within the final week of the year. Humans appear only in the last hour of the last day, and all of our recorded history, from the founding of every religion to the fighting of every war, takes place in the last 14 seconds of Dec. 31.
Sweeping themes like this make “Cosmos” different from other prime-time shows, with its potential to make viewers feel like their own lives are insignificant blips in the vastness of space and time.
Druyan acknowledges that some in the audience might be overwhelmed with the immensity of the cosmos, and how small humanity is when viewed on this scale. But she hopes the show will be taken as a celebration of human life, rather than a negation of its ultimate value.
“We may be little guys but we don’t think small,” she said. “It’s the courage of questions, of grasping our true circumstances, and not pretending we are at the center of it all, that is adulthood. That’s being a grownup. Nothing in the cosmos diminishes the profundity of life and love. This show is a celebration of life in the universe.” [DailyNews]