It is hard to imagine how one can make an hour-long program that slowly takes you through 14bn years worth of history. But Prof Brian Cox and the BBC have managed it with the Universe's first episode. It could be a space-time paradox, which only the great professor can solve. If I have used the space-time paradox incorrectly, please don't write. I am an arts graduate and I need this series very much even though I can't honestly say that I enjoy it.
As you can probably guess from the title, the four-part BBC Two series will eventually cover just about every aspect of the astrophysical. The opener, however, is about stars and our big yin the sun. Although it is tied to the Nasas Parker solar probes missions, mentions of these are only brief bookends. Cox is busy doing his thing in the middle.
You know what it means after more than a decade of following him since The Wonders of the Solar System was released in 2010. It means a pint of the professors knowledge poured into a hogshead of programming, then diluted to almost homeopathic proportions by lyrical meditations on our place in the solar system/galaxy/universe, CGI-rendered impressions of the phenomena and arty shots of spectacular sweeps of land or ocean the latter always reminds me of the Victoria Wood sketch in which Julie Walterss character describes how her mother is enjoying life in Spain. She likes the grandeur and magnificence of the landscapes, but not the bacon.
This is my view of the problem with Cox productions. The wonder fades so quickly and ponderously that you can't help but think about it. The wonder fades quickly, despite being insisted on at all times. Every shot is accompanied by stirring music. Cox's latest exclamation of the ancient past, which he relentlessly seeks to make known, is swooped in to highlight. I don't know why they are afraid to show his real knowledge. This is the rarest of animals - a personable physicist who doesn't mind being photographed and continues to try to use him as poet. You don't know why?
We have many riffs about the age of starlight this time around. Everything we cherish, everyone we love, and everything we treasure are all created by stars. It's impossible to find time to be inspired by the things that should inspire us.
It's amazing in every way that he speaks with passion and awe about star formation and collapsing, seeding the universe with elements that start the birth of the universe, and about the gradual buildup of life from hydrogen, helium, and nuclear fusion within first stars. We see the forces at work behind all the padding and fluff. The chemical reactions between protons give rise to primitive ocean cells that are receptive for light from one star of the trillions that have existed. These cells then go on to photosynthesise our world. Amazing. Tell us more, for the love of God.
Maybe I've solved this paradox. If you're afraid of it, or if it is a commissioning editor, frightened about how much it will take, then you can think of facts and figures more like medicine that needs lots of sugar to make it work.