4. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Science Ambassador
"To talk with Neil is to talk to a person who really wants to share," Anne Druyan tells us of the Cosmos host.
In our 10 Heroes of Black Nerddom piece, we talked about why Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is important as the modern face of science and scientific thought, and we won't rehash those reasons here.
The big surprise is what a perfect host he is for Cosmos, bringing just the right amount of charisma, humanity and gravitas to a show that could have easily hired a celebrity spokes-critter (I'm thinking one of the geek minstrels from Big Bang Theory) to front the show.
Serving as both our narrator and guide, Dr. Tyson blends the academic, the cosmic, the spiritual and the personal in a way that's surprising on a big-budget piece of TV.
Druyan says that "As much as [Carl] knew, he never spoke to impress people with how much he knew, only to communicate and to connect. And I think that's one of the reasons he's so beloved. And the same thing is true for Neil."
He's also responsible for the most emotional moment in the pilot episode.
3. Hold Up, There's Something in My Eye...
See that picture up there? That's a young Neil deGrasse Tyson, years before he would be a fixture on television and in the news talking about space, science, and getting a gig on a big budget science show. Once upon a time, that skinny kid was a huge Carl Sagan fanboy, and the story that the adult Dr. Tyson tells late in the pilot aims for the heart where much of Cosmos aims for the head.
Tyson recounts how, as a teen, he was invited by Sagan to visit his home in Ithaca, New York, the famed academic taking time out of his schedule to talk with a young man about a future in science.
You'll have to see the segment to see why it had a couple of journalists tearing up, but when Tyson says that meeting Sagan made him realize what kind of man he wanted to be, there might be some sniffles coming from your living room, too.
2. The Spirit of Carl Sagan Lives!
Fans of the original Cosmos are in for a treat when the new series makes its debut: Carl Sagan's voice is one of the first things that greets audiences, asking them to join him on a journey of discovery through space and time.
Besides the nostalgia factor (which is kind of a big deal for some fans), it also serves as a cool passing of the torch from one generation to the next, a kind of an endorsement from beyond the grave from Carl to Ann and company. What could come off as macabre and manipulative instead feels like the show's efforts to show us the evolution of the series (and our visions of the cosmos).
Plus, that voice, 30-odd years later asking you to come with him on a journey remains a hypnotic and wonderful thing.
1. We Need to Dream Bigger
"The dreams of a generation before have kind of been downsized," Ms. Druyan told us when asked about the new Cosmos. The author, producer and writer says that at least here in the U.S., we're in an era that's hostile (or at least apathetic) to science.
And who can blame her for seeing it that way? Hell, the most disheartening thing I read this week was a Dartmouth study showing that presented with hard, scientific data, anti-vaccination proponents would actually become more certain of their beliefs rather than the concrete facts. We're in a period where the shuttle program has been killed, where creation myths are making their way into science curricula, and science doesn't get the full-throated advocacy it deserves.
I'll leave you with this thought: when I asked why now was the right time to bring Cosmos back to the airwaves, Ms. Druyan suggested that it was always a good time for a series like this. "It's always a good time to have a cosmic perspective and the kind of awesome perspective of science at your disposal."
Previously by Charles Webb