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