The Cosmos ‘reboot’ with Neil deGrasse Tyson premiered Sunday night on 10 different networks. The program, officially titled, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, is co-executive produced by Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane and Ann Druyan, the widow of Carl Sagan (1934-1996), the host of the original, award-winning 1980 show Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.
On viewing I found it to be slickly produced and quite daring at points, especially the animated segment on Giordano Bruno and his persecution by the Italian Catholic Inquisition ‘thought police’, considering the show was being aired on Fox. Tyson himself came across something like what Lando Calrissian might look like in the next Star Wars film, with a few extra years and pounds under his belt, but still piloting a sweet space ride.
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However, despite this event having been anticipated for over 3 years, initial reports focusing strictly on the Fox broadcast Nielsen ratings placed this Cosmos third behind ABC’s Resurrection. Saying anything new about the American viewing public these days?
Here on FilmOn’s free VOD service we can keep up in the Cosmos race, with our own gonzo space classic Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977). Also known as Year Zero: War In Space and the tres-chic Cosmo 2000, the film was directed by Alfonso Brescia, who Anglicized himself as Al Bradley, and is best known as having directed a number of low budget space adventures riding the immediate wake of the original Star Wars’ 1977 success: Battle In Interstellar Space, War of the Robots and Metallica (all 1978). Brescia’s Cosmos appears to have merely been a fortuitously timed production, as doesn’t incorporate any obvious references to George Lucas’ films. However, it synthesizes just about every previous landmark sci-fi production, and part of the fun is locating the elements.
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John Richardson, known for his lead role opposite Raquel Welch in One Million Years, B.C. (and also previously a lead candidate to replace Sean Connery as Bond for On Her Majesties Secret Service) channels Planet of the Apes’ Charlton Heston and Star Trek’s William Shatner as Colonel Alex Hamilton, the commander who can’t play by the rules and has a deep distrust of technology.
It just so happens that his nemesis here will be a combination of Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet (1956) and H.A.L. 9000 from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), with an element of ‘supernatural’ possessive powers that recalls Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (1965) and theme music straight out of Norman Jewison’s Rollerball (1975). Other plot elements and details reference Woody Allen‘s Sleeper (1973) and the groovy British sci-fi series Space 1999 (1975-1977).
These elements (and the interaction with the corporate-looking, ‘academy’ types back on earth) would actually foreshadow Ridley Scott’s Alien a couple of years later, while visually (and sonically, great Moog action to be had), the gonzo elements such as the vessel’s ‘Cosmic Love’ chamber are in their own way just as thoughtful, and enchanting, if not more so, than deGrasse’s ‘Cosmic Calendar.’
Watch Cosmos: War of the Planets free now via FilmOn:
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