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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Science > Health > Technology > Innovation > Math > Education > innovation > Groundbreaking > Brave New World with Stephen Hawking/The Code/In Their Own Words/This Is Civilization (Athena DVD Sets/Documentary TV Mini-Series)

Brave New World with Stephen Hawking/The Code/In Their Own Words/This Is Civilization (Athena DVD Sets/Documentary TV Mini-Series)


Picture: C+/C/C/C     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Main Programs: B+/B-/B/B-



Athena continues to offer some of the smartest, richest DVD releases on the market to be educational and for the most educated viewer.  Here are four more winners…



We start with Brave New World with Stephen Hawking in which the world-renown genius hosts a five episode mini-series on the technological advances that are looking to best help us and our world out in the long term and why most of them are so vital.  Machines, Health, Technology, Environment and Biology are the names of each respective episode, but that does not begin to tell you how great or rich each hour-long show is.


The innovations, ideas and advancements featured are highly underreported, deserve much more attention, support and I hope this one becomes a success that has people talking and people watching who normally would not watch such a show.



Marcus du Sautoy hosts The Code in which he posits the theory that we are held together by basic mathematics and spends three hour-long shows trying to prove it.  Created by the producers of The Story Of Math (reviewed elsewhere on this site), it is a fun, fine exploration of how things naturally occur around us and I agree with most of what I see here, but the host might be getting carried away a bit as if math were an inescapable force simply because so much breaks down into logarithms.


However, there is so much to like about this series that it is still definitely worth a look and no doubt du Sautoy is a math expert and fine host.  I just see some limits to what he is presenting here.



With audio and sometimes film and video from the BBC archives, In Their Own Words is an amazing collection of interviews and other thoughts of some of the greatest thinkers and writers of our time from Virginia Woolf to George Orwell to J.R.R. Tolkien to Sigmund Freud to Anthony Burgess to Kingsley Amis to Martin Amis and many, many more.


Covering British and world history in its six hour-long episodes, it is a compelling journey and is split into two sections.  The British Novelists shows include Among The Ruins: 1919 – 1939, The Age Of Anxiety: 1945 – 1969 and Nothing Sacred: 1970 – 1990, while Great Thinkers includes Human, All Too Human, The Grand Experiment and The Culture Wars.  A remarkable collection, I strongly recommend it.



Finally we have This Is Civilization hosted by Matthew Collings updating the controversial hit 1969 BBC series Civilization (and not to be confused with Niall Ferguson’s series of the same name from 2011 reviewed elsewhere on this site exploring the connection between art, faith, religion, propaganda, power and inspirations (positive and negative based) throughout the centuries leading us to where we are today.


He can be very bold, but also to make his points, takes the long way in the four hour-long shows here and though that is better than short cuts in thinking and explaining, can draw this out longer for some viewers and even seem slightly repetitive.  Still, it is a good program and is definitely worth a look.




The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on all four sets are not bad, but save World, tend to be a little softer throughout than I expected including style choices, older analog video footage where applicable and some transfer anomalies.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on all four sets are more consistent with fine recordings and the vintage audio on Words tends to be in really good shape.


Extras in all four releases include informative, nicely illustrated booklet on the series that offers additional facts and ideas at 16 pages each (Code and Civilization are 12 pagers) and all but Code have text bios on their subjects.  Code does add the four-minutes-long Math Shorts.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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