Cosmos 2014: When Knowledge Conquered Fear

This last episode was a combined update of the original Cosmos episodes/chapters “The Harmony of Worlds” and “Heaven and Hell.” The episode reminds me that, in a real sense, the new Cosmos is not for me; it is for people who need it more.

Some complain about the quality of the animated sequences, but I find their starkness and stiffness intriguing. What troubles me is the cliched dialogue and the broad-stroke portraits, especially the one of Newton. Newton was very probably on the autism spectrum, and the portrayal of Newton as merely sensitive, instead of inexpressibly odd, takes a great deal from the human heart of the story. And why tell this story, if it is not to impress the viewer with how much one strange, flawed man is worth to us all?

I, personally, was left a little cold by this episode, at least after the sequence where Tyson picked up the baby, which won all of our hearts. Perhaps next week’s episode will move me more. But it is important to understand that the new Cosmos is not a cover album. It is for young people, for passersby who have never heard these amazing stories for themselves. A truncated animated tale is not the worst way to reach such an audience.

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