The Planets (1999)
Videos in this documentary
Authors:- David McNab and James Younger.
Published by BBC Worldwide Ltd.
Text Copyright © David McNab and James Younger 1999.
Design and concept copyright © BBC Worldwide 1999.
During the last 40 years, human beings have broken free of the Earth and ventured out to other worlds orbiting the Sun. We have visited every planet except Pluto, discovered dozens of new moons in orbit around other planets and put to rest the myths and fantasies that have been accepted for centuries. This magnificent series chronicles our planetary travels, explains the creation and evolution of each planet and tells how our understanding of the Solar System has developed from the first star-gazers in ancient times to Galileo and up to the present.
In an engaging narrative that draws on interviews with U.S. and Soviet scientists and astronauts, state-of-the-art computer graphics, and space-race archives, David McNab and James Younger reveal the wonders of the planets. With the help of striking pictures from the Apollo, Voyager, Pioneer and Viking space missions, the authors describe planetary marvels: volcanoes three times the size of Mount Everest, worlds with seas of methane, rivers of lava longer than the Nile, clouds of sulphuric acid and frosts of pure shining metal. They also investigate the possibilities of life elsewhere in the Solar System, present a new perspective on the Sun and on the Earth's atmosphere and speculate about the evolution of the Solar System over the next five billion years - to what may be its death.
The Planets, which is the companion volume to a major eight-part BBC television series, invites us on an amazing adventure, one that will stretch the imagination to its limit.
1. Different Worlds
2. Terra Firma
While watching The Planets, be prepared to fight your way past all kinds of computer animation which makes Walking with Dinosaurs seem like the last word in realism. It seems that no solar or planetary event which ever happened (or which may or may not have happened) is worthy of mention here without recourse to lovingly detailed shots of implausible-looking collisions and explosions. These come complete with sound effects, despite the fact that there is no sound in the vacuum of space, and are enhanced by a range of colours, some of which are visible only to bees. Somehow Patrick Moore's The Sky at Night manages to convey just as much excitement with little more than a couple of diagrams and the presenter's hyperactive enthusiasm.
Fortunately, this two-DVD set is redeemed by both its subject matter and its sheer scope, offering all eight 50-minute episodes of the 1999 documentary series covering the history of the solar system and humanity's age-old desire to learn its secrets. Detailed indexing and scene access makes this a convenient reference source too, so amateur astronomers everywhere can finally bin those off-air VHS copies. --Roger Thomas