In the beginning there was only darkness and then…bang!
While at first glance the two-disc The Best of The Universe would seem to be a compilation of the History Channel series’ best episodes, such is not the case. Alas, poor Yorick, this set is merely another case of repackaging previously sold wares and slapping a new name on them. Disc one is the first disc of Season Four of the series, while disc two is the first disc from Season Six.
And since we at Verdict have reviewed both seasons in their entirety, not to mention the entire series release, I shall only skim the details.
“Death Stars — With continual references to Star Wars and the Death Star in particular, we learn all about the universe’s deadliest stars.
“The Day the Moon Was Gone — What would happen to Earth if the moon was gone? It’s not pretty.
“It Fell from Space — Giving you one more phobia to consider, this episode details the many types of detritus which falls from the heavens.
“Catastrophes That Changed the Planets — A countdown of the top ten disasters which have befallen our solar system’s planets.
“Nemesis: The Sun’s Evil Twin — Most stars are part of a binary system. Is that true of our sun, and if so is its twin an evil twin bent on world destruction?
“How the Solar System Was Made — Pretty self-explanatory.
“Crash Landing on Mars — Again this is an example of a title doing most of the heavy lifting for the viewer.
The Universe is at its best when it uses everyday colloquialisms and comparisons in order to illustrate scientific concepts way beyond the grasp of us mere mortals. Tell me that an orbit is three-pronged with two of the prongs not working and I’m lost; show me a sprinkler with two heads shut off and I get it. It’s slow at times, no doubt, however your level of interest will vary based upon the subject at hand. And speaking of interest just picking two discs from two seasons without making an effort to really look into each season feels shifty to me. I’m disappointed in The Best of The Universe.
The technical specs vary from disc to disc, another point against the set as a whole. Disc one has a 1.33:1 full frame video transfer while disc two shows a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The full frame works better for me as the CGI and interview segments don’t suffer from the compression artefacting occasionally witnessed within the widescreen. The palette of both discs highlights some very nice blues and oranges, especially within the CGI portions. The one constant in terms of tech specs is the audio track. Both discs boast Dolby 2.0, which can sound distinctly hollow at times; however, this isn’t a Blu-ray set, so I’m not surprised.
There are no special features.
Obviously, if you already own either Season Four or Six, there is no need to purchase this. However, I’m saying avoid this altogether. Without a true sampling of all the seasons produced, The Best of The Universe feels more about scoring a quick buck than about showing off the true breadth and width of the series’ subject matter.