Nov 9 2012 10:00am

Introducing the Cosmos Rewatch: Welcome Back, Carl Sagan

Introducing the Carl Sagan Cosmos Rewatch on

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, consisting of thirteen episodes aired over the fall and winter months of 1980, is one of the most well-known, significant documentary series in the history of television—still the most widely watched PBS series in the world—and an emotional favorite for more than one generation of viewers, all around the globe. Written by science advocate Carl Sagan, author and science activist Ann Druyan (also married to Sagan), and astrophysicist Steven Soter, with Sagan as the narrator and presenter, Cosmos captured the imaginations and hearts of (at last estimation) around half a billion people. It won both an Emmy and a Peabody award, too.

But, you probably know all of that already—or something like it, at least anecdotally. I've met few people, in my parents' generation or my own, who don't have at least brief memories of Carl Sagan narrating issues of scientific import from whales to the mind to outer space; fewer still who don't, on discovering Cosmos, develop a fast appreciation for it. The cultural significance of the series is such that Carl Sagan continues to be a figure across our contemporary scientific world, despite his death in 1996. Folks have made music (the Symphony of Science videos) with his voice, named multiple awards (plus asteroids and rover landing sites) after him—and, in 2013, will be producing a sequel and homage to his work on Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

That upcoming series, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, will be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, produced by Ann Druyan and Seth McFarlane, and aired simultaneously on Fox and National Geographic. The contemporary revival of Cosmos, alongside the original's appearance on Netflix's livestream, makes this seem like just about the perfect time to revisit the classic series. To be honest, when I realized that no one had yet done a rewatch here on, I was shocked—and really, really thrilled that I would have the chance to do so.

I am not an expert; certainly not a scientist. What I am is an enthusiast, and a person with intense, personal memories of watching Cosmos as a child, of being inspired and moved by Sagan's narratives. The science in Cosmos may occasionally be outdated, but the passion isn't, and neither is the joy of sharing that passion with Sagan and the world's audiences. Cosmos denoted a moment in the cultural history of the US where folks had a lot to say, and think, about science together. I'd like to spend some time re-envisioning and re-investing in that conversation, along with you, readers, as we watch through the series once more (or, for the first time, if you've missed it) together.

This rewatch will cover the full thirteen episodes of the series—more than three decades after the original airing—and I welcome you to comment, critique, discuss, and generally have a good time watching along with me. Welcome back, Carl Sagan, for a time.

We begin with “The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean.”

Brit Mandelo is a writer, critic, and editor whose primary fields of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide. She can be found on Twitter and her website.

2. wiredog
Another series from the late 70's that bears rewatching is "Connections".
3. Bruce (an astronomer)
I'm an astronomer, and Cosmos was definitely a significant influence on me at an important age - it definitely conveyed the wonder of science (and the idea of connectedness between elements of the universe, and us) better than anything before or since. And of course it conveyed how much fun it was to be a scientist. That turns out to be mostly true.
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
This should be really fun. I'm going to have to rewatch these as I haven't reseen them since they originally aired. Cool idea.
5. Simon B
I had seen parts of it (perhaps all of it) as a child and I had read the companion book more than once. But it wasn't until a thoughtful gift from my wife last Christmas that I found myself in possession of the DVD box set. That spurred a rewatch with my family. It's an amazingly *human* series. My wife was shocked by it, expecting a dry "science show" but instead was moved to tears at points. I will be looking forward to the re-watch blog entries.
S Cooper
6. SPC
Oddly, I don't remember watching this at all - admittedly, I was born in 1980, but we watched so much PBS when I was a kid it's hard to imagine we missed it on replays. "Connections," on the other hand, I remember fondly. (Thanks for mentioning it, wiredog) I'm really looking forward to this, as it may inspire me to get around to finally watching Cosmos.
Ian Tregillis
7. ITregillis
Yay, Brit! This is a fantastic idea for a rewatch!
Jeremy Clegg
8. Cleggster
My god I love this series. I remember when this came, it was the reason we finaly broke down and got a color tv. The part where he talks about how interrelated all life on Earth is still sticks with me with how amazing it is.

And delighted I was to discover that it was availiable in full to watch on Hulu. For those who don't have Netflix.
Brit Mandelo
9. BritMandelo
Thanks, all! I look forward to talking about the show for the next while in this space.


Good to know!
10. SueQ
Loved this show !!
Watched every episode back then, and re-watched it on YouTube last year. Even had a cool discussion in the comments section about Shiprock, New Mexico (someone wondered where a scene had been filmed, and it looked familiar to me from the time I was in New Mexico. I checked out a video made from an ultra-light plane, and informed the someone where it was and how to watch the video. YouTube is so-oo-00 cool!!

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