"The day someone says, 'Let's stop exploring,' we might as well move back into the cave, because that's where we'll land," astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told us in regard to why his latest project, the return of science show Cosmos, is such an important milestone for TV — and for Americans as a whole.
It's been 33 years since Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage first aired on PBS and turned viewers' sights to the infinite universe, and the upcoming Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey picks up where its predecessor left off, focusing on the story of the universe and making these concepts accessible to a mainstream audience with a taste for Hollywood-style special effects.
Cosmos has left such an impression even decades after its initial release due to the format of the show. It "wasn't simply opening up science books and teaching pages ripped from it," Neil said during a Comic-Con press session. "It spent time learning, exploring how to make science matter to you as a human being, as a citizen, as a species with a capacity to reflect upon its own existence."
The new Cosmos comes with a renowned science and entertainment pedigree, counting Ann Druyan, cowriter of the first Cosmos series alongside her late husband, Carl Sagan, as a writer; director of photography Bill Pope, known for his work in the Matrix trilogy; producer Brannon Braga, a Star Trek: The Next Generation alum; and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane as an executive producer. The involvement of a comedian known for his crass jokes may seem surprising, but with his influence at Fox, Seth was the driving force behind bringing Cosmos to its 8 p.m. Sunday-night spot beginning February 2014 on the network, and he actually included references to the original show in an episode of Family Guy. In fact, Ann recounted a conversation with Seth in which he told her that with the exception of his parents, no two people have had as much influence on his life as her and Carl.
It's with the big studio backing that the show is able to include blockbuster-scale visual effects that blend "graphic novel"-style animations with space photos provided by NASA and virtual sensations. As seen in the trailer above, Neil travels with viewers through locations in the universe. An impressive scene that Brannon said they're still working on depicts "Neil on Mars, but as seen through the point of view of a rover. It's following him around and handing him a rock, doing all this cool stuff."
The story of space and time is a deep passion of all those involved, particularly those we spoke with during Comic-Con, all but guaranteeing that their passion will shine through in the show. "I have high expectations that it will change the mood of the country, so people will come to value science," Neil said. Based on the crowd that greeted Neil, Ann, and Brannon during the Cosmos panel in one of Comic-Con's biggest event rooms, the Indigo Ballroom, it's a passion many viewers will hold as well. The group was met with standing ovations when they entered and exited the stage, showing a fan base rivaling the Hollywood mainstays in Hall H, and they seemed ready to take on science exploration.
For more from the Cosmos panel, watch a recap — featuring typical Neil deGrasse Tyson humor — below.