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The Universe: The Complete Season Three(TV) (2008)
Travel through the galaxies and explore extraterrestrial phenomenon with this sweeping examination of the universe from The History Channel, which uses state-of-the-art computer technology to take viewers up close to distant planets and stars. Topics include black holes, comets, alien galaxies, star deaths, the moon, the interior of the sun and much more. All 13 episodes from the first season are included, plus the bonus episode "Beyond the Big Bang."
For more about The Universe: The Complete Season Three and the The Universe: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray release, see the The Universe: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 9, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Narrator: Erik Thompson
» See full cast & crew
The Universe: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray Review
To infinity and far, far beyond...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 9, 2009
Has there ever been a more compelling, more confounding quest than the search for the secrets of the universe? How many billions of people have asked themselves whether chance, fate, or a supreme deity holds the reigns of existence? How many intellectuals and laymen have longed to understand the very nature of the cosmos? Young or old, rich or poor, brilliant or simpleminded, curious souls have spent countless millennia searching for answers they may never find; investing their days, faith, money, and effort into uncovering the truth at the heart of reality. Thankfully, we live in a day and age where the latest information is available at the click of button, making our search for answers decidedly easier. Whether perusing the internet or soaking up a sprawling documentary series like The Universe, anyone with the time and willpower can begin to amass as much knowledge as they desire.
For anyone who isn't already intimately familiar with The Universe, you're in for quite a treat. The ongoing History Channel series has spent the last three years investigating the far reaches of space; everything from neighboring planets to distant solar systems, enduring suns to collapsing stars, and shimmering comets to indescribable phenomena. While its third outing takes a small step back from Season Two (offering up just twelve episodes as opposed to the second season's eighteen), I'm pleased to report the episodes are just as engrossing, if not more so, than everything that's come before.
The latest season starts off, quite literally, with a bang with "Deep Space Disasters," a somewhat unsettling opener that analyzes the perilous realities of modern space travel. From there "Parallel Universes," "Light Speed," "Alien Faces," "Living in Space" and, easily the series' oddest episode, "Sex in Space" -- a rather serious look at the challenges copulation and birth face in the cold, unforgiving confines of space -- detail the practical challenges faced by interstellar and, to a far lesser extent, interdimensional travel. While each one comes dangerously close to tipping over the edge of the science fiction ravine, they manage to maintain the tone of previous episodes and treat each subject with welcome sincerity. After a brief layover with "Deadly Comets and Meteors" (one of the only redundant episodes I've encountered in the series), "Another Earth" tackles the likelihood of finding another planet that possesses the same properties and life-sustaining traits as our own.
Season Three draws to a close with "Stopping Armageddon," a look at the statistical probability of an asteroid or comet striking Earth, and the real technologies being developed to prevent it; "Strangest Things," a survey of various particles and quantum anomalies in the universe; "Edge of Space," a review of low-Earth orbit and commercial space travel; and "Cosmic Phenomena," a study of the properties, radiation, and particles that bombard Earth on a daily basis, and their effects on our world and lives. Taken as a twelve episode whole, it's certainly a more theoretical outing than Universe fans might expect -- particularly those who've only sampled the show's first season -- but it's just as rewarding. Packed with more fascinating information, startling theories, and scientific wonders than I can possibly process after one viewing, Season Three delivers the goods, establishing the series proper as a consistently entertaining and engaging intellectual treat; one that will continue to earn my affections for as long as the History Channel continues to churn out new episodes.
The Universe: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Universe: The Complete Season Three features a decent 1080i/AVC-encoded transfer that handles the series' scattershot video sources and budgetary constraints in stride. Its vibrant palette comes alive in high definition, flooding the screen with blazing suns bent on their galaxies' destruction, vivid waterworlds teeming with life, and inky expanses that extend beyond the series' star-soaked space. The CG sequences (while of varying quality) are fairly impressive as well, injecting color and visual oomph into what could have been a bland and cynical overview of the heavens. Textures are nicely rendered, edges are satisfying, and the overall presentation bests its DVD counterpart. Minor softness plagues faces, but isn't overly distracting. Granted, the various video sources (comprised of everything from standard definition archive footage to problematic telescopic photography) make for an uneven viewing experience, but documentary enthusiasts will be completely unfazed by such inherent inconsistencies.
If I have any lingering complaint it's that the technical image is unpredictable and unstable. Frequent (sometimes debilitating) artifacting is a constant distraction; black crush haunts the depths of space; heavy banding occasionally surrounds light sources, hurtling debris, and glowing particles; and minor aliasing continually threatens to undermine the otherwise attractive CG sequences. But all things considered -- including the limitations of the series' modest production values -- Season Three looks pretty good.
The Universe: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like its predecessors, Season Three is burdened with an unfulfilling PCM stereo mix that rarely captures the pulse of the cosmos as readily and effectively as its video transfer. Both its narration and interview segments are clean and intelligible, but a tad hemmed in. Likewise, outdoor interviews occasionally suffer from a variety of minor issues (air noise, hiss, and wind among them), but generally sound as good as can be expected. Unfortunately, effects are little more than flimsy additions to the mix, bass tones are dull and muddy, and scene transitions are thin and tinny. The series' musical score helps matters a bit, but ultimately underwhelms as the track's front-heavy sonics fail to draw the listener into the many wonders on display. I would have loved to hear solar flares blaze past my ears, to sit boldly amidst the destruction of an imploding star, or cower at the aural majesty of a massive black hole. Instead, I was left to my own devices on the outskirts of such phenomenal events, longing to hear them as they were meant to be heard. Still, I suppose it could be a lot worse. Considering this is a television release -- one whose original audio elements weren't designed to deliver the weight, presence, or immersiveness of other high-end presentations -- the stereo mix is a passable addition to this release.
The Universe: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Alas, The Universe's third season Blu-ray release doesn't offer any significant supplemental content; just a text-based "Universe Facts" feature and a "Photo Gallery." The lackluster package certainly shouldn't prevent documentary fans from picking up Season Three, but a documentary or bonus episode (like the ones that were included with seasons One and Two) would have been a nice touch.
The Universe: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Universe forges ahead in style, delving into aspects of the universe we've only just begun to understand and explore. The Blu-ray edition of Season Three offers a comparable experience to seasons One and Two. Aside from a smaller (nearly non-existent) supplemental package, it features yet another decent (albeit problematic) video transfer and a passable (but underwhelming) PCM stereo mix. Even so, the value of this release is the series itself. Documentary fans will be quick to shrug off its technical shortcomings and simply sink into Season Three's twelve intriguing episodes.
The Universe: Other Seasons
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The Universe: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Universe Season 3 and Megaset Coming to BD - June 10, 2009
A&E Home Video will bring to BD 'The Universe: Season 3' on September 29, as well as a megaset reuniting seasons 1 to 3 of this History Channel series. The season set will consist of three discs. Specs aren't known yet. Special features will include a Backyard ...
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