Steven Hawking's Universe review


Following the success of Professor Brian Cox’s breathless BBC series, The Wonders of the Solar System, the daddy of astrophysics, Professor Stephen Hawking, has been given the opportunity to bring the universe to life.

The three part series, entitled simply, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, comes to the Discovery Channel on May the 9th and features some of the most advanced CGI work ever seen on television. The sheer scale and scope of the programme is as unimaginably vast as the cosmos itself, and to fully realise Hawking’s ideas the latest supercomputers and best CGI teams in the business have been utilised.

Around 80% of the series has been created on computer, with executive producer, John Smithson, commenting, “what we have created I believe is like an Avatar for science non-fiction programming – a real creative game changer”.

The first episode deals with the fascinating prospect of intelligent life existing somewhere else in the universe, something which he sees as a mathematical probability. Hawking considers what aliens might look like, describing how the same forces that have dictated evolution on earth would apply on other planets. So as we see CGI prey and predator creatures interact, he explains that all land-based creatures need a mouth, feet and eyes to exist; although after that it’s anyone’s guess.

As Dan Korn, SVP Programming for Discovery Networks UK, explains; “Typically, Hawking views the potential for alien life in a unique and expansive way. He takes us on a journey to exo-solar planets, on which the atmosphere and biosphere could be similar to earth’s and the alien life he envisages more akin to the aliens in Men in Black than those usually considered”.

Professor Hawking himself enjoyed experience of bringing his theories to life, “I have written and lectured about the possibility of alien life, but this was the first time I actually got to see what I was talking about”. He is of course confident about the possibility of alien life, “I believe alien life is probably quite common in the universe, although intelligent life is less so, some say it has yet to appear on planet earth”, while maintaining caution about actually meeting it, “I don’t think we would want to meet advanced, intelligent aliens, life is always a competitive and aggressive business so aliens coming here are likely to want to compete with us rather than play with us”.

Episodes two and three deal with more crucial sci-fi fare - time travel and the life and death of the universe - with the whole series applying his scientific knowledge to the issues that have filled our fictional space adventures for decades.

The series features Hawking narrating the action, both in his instantly recognisable computer voice as well as the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, who played him in the BBC drama, Hawking. And this combination of his brilliant mind and the latest visual technology have created the most fascinating and realistic representation of our universe ever, which should delight amateurs and experts alike.