Television and movies have long speculated about faraway galaxies through the eyes of fictional space explorers such as Buck Rogers and Captain Kirk. But TV viewers were eventually given an informative introduction to the real universe we live in, thanks to a visionary scientist named Carl Sagan, host and producer of the fascinating 13-part television series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Airing in 1980 on PBS, Cosmos was a provocative, visually-stunning exploration that left viewers on the edge of their seats as Sagan used his considerable charm to explain all that we know about the mysteries of space.
Written by Sagan, along with Ann Druyan (Sagan’s wife) and Steven Soter (a noted astrophysicist), Cosmos spent 13 hours giving a guided tour of the universe to the layman – from the origins of life on earth, to our neighboring planets, to the vast expanse of space, with all of its beauty and mystery. But, what really made Cosmos special was that it offered much more than a mere science textbook. Along the journey, Carl explored not only the scientific data, but questioned what it meant from a philosophical standpoint, in ways few documentaries had ever attempted. And considering the complexities of the subject matter, it is a credit to Sagan that he was able to humanize the story of our existence so brilliantly and put it into words that any non-scientist could easily relate to and understand.
For it’s considerable efforts, Cosmos was rewarded with both an Emmy and a Peabody award. It is estimated that over 500 million people around the world have watched the show, making it the most-watched PBS series of all time. And for those who may have missed Cosmos the first time around (or the 25th anniversary re-broadcast on the Science Channel in 2005), a completely re-mastered DVD set is readily available. Also, for those that are interested, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is slated to host a sequel to the original series, which is scheduled to air in 2013.
In the 25 years that have passed since the first broadcast of Cosmos, the series has aged remarkably well. Its material remains relevant, scientifically sound, and just as captivating as when it first aired. And for this timeless gift, we owe many thanks to the late Carl Sagan, who charmed us with his good nature and intellect as he took us on an E-ticket ride through the galaxy that even Captain Kirk could have appreciated.
If you have fond memories of watching this enthralling PBS series, we welcome your thoughts in our comments section.