The Creation of the
Universe (PBS Video)
Audio: B- Extras: C Main Program: A-
The cover of the DVD for PBS’ The Creation of the Universe boasts that the viewer can
“explore the latest answer to science’s oldest question.” When you examine the DVD closely, though,
you’ll discover that the program included inside is from 1985. This is now 2005. How can it be the “latest” answer if it’s a two-decade-old one—granted,
to a multi-millennia old question, but still.
But after watching the engrossing, admittedly dated The Creation of the Universe,
you’ll quickly realize that, indeed, this represents a fairly up-to-date
briefing on the issues the program’s concerned with, namely theoretical
Timothy Ferris is our guide on the murky world of quarks,
bosons, weak forces, etc. that is as dense as the early universe is theorized
to have been. He alternately takes us
on a tour of our natural world and the one that lies in the heavens to explain the
leaps in thought that have happened since the first use of the telescope
through the postulation of the Theory of Relativity to the (1985) current
thinking of such minds as Stephen Hawking.
Using extremely dated computer effects, Ferris explains—in as layman’s
terms as possible—how subatomic particles are created now in labs, how they are
created in nature and how they affect the world around us.
The issues and ideas that Ferris concerns himself with
here will be immediately recognizable to anyone that’s taken an advanced
Physics or Chemistry class, but that doesn’t reduce the usefulness of both the
information itself and its presentation.
There are few volumes available on DVD that packs as much
substance in as little space as is present on The Creation of the Universe. Yes it’s dated and yes it can be a bit hokey, but the ideas and
questions raised about theoretical and particle physics have yet to be answered
and the poor computer graphics make one nostalgic for a time before the Hubble
deep-space telescope and sophisticated computer graphics when we were forced to
imagine what distant, far-off galaxies and subatomic particles looked like.
But one of the most personally interesting things found on
this disc is the interview and lecture footage with Dr. Hawking. For anyone under 25 with any level of
interest in the subject matter, the only image of Dr. Hawking is the
perpetually smiling, wheelchair-imprisoned brilliance who uses a computer for
speech. Here, though, Dr. Hawking still
has the (limited) ability of speech and uses an interpreter to help get his
thoughts across. This is a small thing, but it ultimately puts a much more
personal face on the man while humanizing him and showing just how crippling
his disease is.
When watching The
Creation of the Universe, you’d be hard-pressed not to notice how
old the thing looks. That’s to be
expected since it was made in ’85, but while a clean image, there are still
murky spots here and there. They don’t
take away in any way from the program itself, but instead draws your attention
to its age. The Dolby Digital 2.0
Stereo audio on the disc with some Pro Logic surround suffers from the same
problem. While surely the best efforts
of PBS have been put into cleaning the program up, you can only do so much.
Extras-wise, there is only one thing on the disc: a
commentary with Ferris. At first, you
might think this redundant as he is already narrating—indeed, commentating—on
the program. But listening to the track
provided for an interesting retrospective on a science program that has found
an audience and kept it for 20 years.
If you’re searching for an interesting DVD on the subject
of theoretical and particle physics and how it relates to the creation of,
well, everything, you can’t go wrong with The Creation of the Universe. Other programs might provide
more in the way of up-to-date information and extensive extras, but there’s no
denying the strength of just how much is packed into this program, making it
one of the best around.
- Dante A.