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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Science > A Science Odyssey - The Journey Of A Century

A Science Odyssey – The Journey Of A Century (WGBH Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Episodes: A-



PBS continues to have an outstanding reputation, no matter who attacks it.   More than anything else, one of the reasons it is a target is because it is unmatched for its work in journalism and science, something even its cable rivals cannot totally top.  A Science Odyssey – The Journey Of A Century (1998) is one of the greatest examples of why.  Narrated by the great Charles Osgood, the five-part (560 minutes long) show is an outstanding documentary mini-series that is loaded with all kind of facts, surprises and key history in and out of the science field.


Origins talks about earth (plate tectonics) and the science of the human species through evolution and other developments that are pretty inarguable, especially at a time when the ill-conceived propaganda of “intelligent design(er)” is being repackaged in a new attempt top dumb down and silence people, progress and the future itself.


Bigger, Better, Faster covers cars, planes, computers and the most direct implications of the Industrial Revolution of the 20th century.  The 1939 World’s Fair becomes the middle ground and Space Race the conclusion.  New synthetic materials also come into play. This is one of the strongest segments in the series.


In Search Of Ourselves deals with genetics and human behavior, also being recently questioned and challenged, but in different ways.  This extends to mental diseases and the ways they can be cured were originally approached and trends in all of the above.


Mysteries Of The Universe features the original thinking that went into the science of physics and how it changed the world forever.  Albert Einstein is joined by his less known colleagues in the early part of the program, which leads to Quantum Physics, the Atomic Bomb and theories on Outer Space, including the science that tries to figure out how the universe was created.


Matters Of Life & Death concludes the set with a look at how in one century; the expectation of death went from no hope of being cured to always expecting science could eventually always save lives.  This includes scourges like Bubonic plague, pellagra, diabetes, viral infections, surgeries and transplants.  It reminds us of how vulnerable we still are.



Despite its length, the show always remains fascinating, interesting and is very hard to turn away from once you start to watch.  Osgood is one of the great narrators and makes the extremely well written and well-researched material All the more compelling, along with interviews taped for the program.  Even in the age of The Internet, you would be hard pressed to do any kind of web search that would be as exciting and consistently informative as this program.  A Science Odyssey holds up extremely well for its few years of age and will continue to endure for a long time.  It is one of the best DVD releases of its kind to date.


The 1.33 X 1 image originated on professional NTSC analog video and looks good for its age, though parts of it are slightly hazing here and there.  The older film footage is particularly interesting and all is well edited.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo even has Pro Logic surrounds and makes playback a pleasure, especially since some such shows are simple stereo at best.  There are few extras, including weblinks and a descriptive video track for the visually impaired, but DVD-ROM owners can print out educational materials for all five parts, accessible on the DVD of the subject.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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