I have got an unpleasant virus infection which means that I shouldn’t stray very far from home at the moment so last night I watched television here in England and caught the first episode in a new BBC series called, rather crudely, The Wonders of The Universe. It sounds like one of those glossy children’s science books that you can pick up at motorway service stations to amuse the kids with for about ten minutes whilst they are waiting for the fish fingers to arrive.
Actually the show is much better than that and so is its presenter, the amiable, very clever and winningly enthusiastic Brian Cox. A shame that these days everything and everyone on television has to be over-hyped, over-egged and over-exposed. Professor Cox can’t help being relatively young and tall, he can’t help having a Lancastrian accent and he certainly can’t help being very clever indeed. Well he is a physicist and astronomer with a gift for communication so the BBC, never to over-estimate our intelligence, has decided to turn him into a God with Boyband pretensions. Right from the start, we know that this show is about spectacular images of space and even more spectacular images of Brian standing tall, gazing moodily into space, and striding manfully across the globe. This is not just The Wonders Of The Universe, it is The Wonders of Brian Cox. More than that, after the first few frames, I wondered if this was going to be The Apothoesis Of Brian Cox. Watch out for episode two when the jolly young professor is literally transformed in the sun god Apollo himself.
Take a look at the trailer if you don’t believe me:
So, yes, there is a lot of space age, epic music, as well as a lot of epic Brian Cox but, if you can take the hype, stick with it because this is a very interesting and intelligently written series which touches on a load of issues that I find personally pretty disturbing. I was feeling ill, admittedly, but I tried to watch some of the stuff about the end of the world, the end of the sun, the end of the universe, the end of everything, through my fingers like a child watching the whale in Pinocchio.
Brian Cox says it as it is as far as he can see and all this end of everything we know stuff makes me wonder if it is worth getting that new bathroom. OK it is all going to fall apart in trillions of years from now but it leaves me feeling sort of, well, temporary and insecure.
A bit like that great German Romantic poet, Friedrich Hölderlin, whose poem Hyperion’s Song Of Fate, came back to me as I was going to bed.
I thought I would read my loose English translation of it as it sums up the way I felt last night:
The poem was set, movingly, to music by Johannes Brahms, another melancholic Romantic but he, inspiringly, didn’t leave us tumbling into uncertainty with the end of the poem, he brings the piece to a close with a gently sad, maybe tragic, reprise of the glorious orchestral introduction.
Here it is, it last about 13 minutes but it is in two parts, thanks to messres Utube. Have a listen and then weep. This too is about the end of the World: