I am in awe of Prof. Brian Cox, he of various interstellar escapades and New Labour’s theme tune Things Can Only Get Better, and most recently the repeated series The Planets on the Beeb. Sat here on our lonely orb looking at close-ups of our sisters in the solar system with a warm mug of coffee in hand has been very relaxing. It seems that everything in the solar system has more or less settled down to a humdrum routine, although in the years (millions or billions of them) to come stuff will get a lot more interesting. Bezos’s Amazon will definitely have to retire to Mars to stand any chance of surviving the Sun turning into a red giant. Also, it seems that Saturn’s rings will disappear under the command of that giant’s gravity.
I loved the visuals, although it might be better if the series’ producers could have captioned the shots to tell us which were real and which were computer generated, although a clue could always be found when one saw a picture of say Voyager 2 sailing past Neptune. Did NASA send up another mission to film the first? That observation can only lead to moon landing conspiracy theorists exclaiming how right they were—it’s all fabricated!
Anyway, it seems that our sister planets are untroubled by life (that has to be said with caveats of course). But if there were intelligent forms of life out there looking at us they would be bound to say give that place a miss, it’s teeming with horrible self-destructive bacteria. This is in contrast to some of the wealthier members of our species wishing to spread our bacterial infection to the outer reaches.
One of the endearing features of The Planets is how our amiable guide places himself in some of the most inhospitable landscapes on Earth. Whether it’s the searing heat of the desert or the frozen waste of the north, Prof. Cox always has a smile and some handy ways of illustrating the immense distances involved in his narrative, often employing rocks and pebbles. It’s all rather enchanting. The Solar System. The Universe. I wonder if the Taliban (one variety of our bacteria) have ever dreamt of such things?