Back in the 1980s, we knew considerably less about the world around, above and within us. In a world gripped by Cold War, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos served as a reminder that science is about discovery and knowledge, rather than just a means of increasing your arsenal.
Thirty years on we can stream Carl Sagan‘s groundbreaking documentary for free on YouTube, and still learn something from it. Despite the decades of knowledge gained since the show’s inception, the show is still brimming with intrigue and relevance, so sit back and enjoy the show that inspired a whole generation of scientists to look up at the sky.
Cosmos ran from September 1980 until December of the same year, with a total of thirteen episodes created between 1978 and 1979. Former PBS affiliate KCET footed the $6.3 million budget that went into making the show, and the BBC were involved in a co-production role – which might explain why the show closely mimics classic BBC productions like Civilisation and Life on Earth.
The show achieved greatness through its use of special effects, music and for propagating a sense of wonder among the young and old at a time when Soviet-US relations bred fear and uncertainty. Much of the budget was used to create large sets with huge planetary models, which were then shot in such a way so that it appeared Carl could walk through the cosmos.
Music came from Greek composer Vangelis, leading to Heaven and Hell Movement Part 1 being used as theme song. While the special effects and music were paramount in creating Carl’s specific flavour of silver screen science, the show’s dreamy nature and the ambient background music makes you feel like an eight-year old, sat cross-legged in front of a CRT television.
Oddly enough Cosmos isn’t all about space. Carl also goes into detail about natural selection, evolution as well as mass-extinction events and astronomical phenomena like the Tunguska event. Theories are explored, considered and debunked regardless of how far-fetched they may sound – particularly thirty years on. These days you can find much of what Karl is saying using astronomy apps on your phone or tablet, and the theories don’t sound quite so unbelievable any more.
Watch Them All
I’ve sprinkled a few standout episodes of Cosmos here and there between paragraphs, but they’re all worth a watch if this kind of thing interests you. Serious fans will want to watch (or re-watch) from the beginning and thanks to The Science Foundation’s YouTube channel, all 13 episodes have been collated as a playlist, which you can simply watch by clicking play (that’s thirteen solid hours of Carl Sagan) or click the link below to save for later.
Watch: Carl Sagan’s Cosmos
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Fans of the original will be delighted to know that a sequel to Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos has already been created and shown on FOX in the US, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Family Guy and American Dad creator Seth MacFarlane has been instrumental in the show’s existence, through his influence at Fox and financial investment.
Just like the original, this will be a 13-part series and only began airing on March 9. You can see the trailer for the show above, catch it on FOX in the US or head to CosmosOnTV.com to stream past episodes and find out more. Users outside of the US won’t be able to stream from here, though you could use either DNS tricks or a VPN to access the region-locked videos.
Do you have any favourite inspirational documentaries, scientists or filmmakers like Carl Sagan? And what about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Spacetime Odyssey? We’d love to hear what you think!