Wonders of the Universe

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Wonders of the Universe
Genre Documentary series
Directed by Chris Holt
Presented by Professor Brian Cox
Theme music composer Sheridan Tongue
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 4
Executive producer(s) Jonathan Renouf
Running time 59 minutes
Original network BBC Two
Picture format SD: 576i 16:9
HD: 1080i 
Audio format SD: Stereo
HD: Stereo
Original release 6 March (2011-03-06) – 27 March 2011 (2011-03-27)
Preceded by Wonders of the Solar System (2010)
Followed by Wonders of Life (2013)[1]
External links

Wonders of the Universe is a 2011 television series produced by the BBC, Discovery Channel, and Science Channel, hosted by physicist Professor Brian Cox. Wonders of the Universe was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two from 6 March 2011. The series comprises four episodes, each of which focuses on an aspect of the universe and features a 'wonder' relevant to the theme. It follows on from Cox's 2010 series for the BBC, Wonders of the Solar System. An accompanying book with the same title was also published.


1. "Destiny"[edit]

In the first episode, Cox considers the nature of time. He explores the cycles of time that define the lives of humans on Earth, and compares them to the cycles of time on a cosmic scale. Cox also discusses the Second Law of Thermodynamics and its effect on time, and the heat death of the universe. The US broadcast was originally aired on 3 August 2011, and was titled "Cosmos Made Conscious."

2. "Stardust"[edit]

In this episode, Cox discusses the elements of which all living things, including humans, are made. He explores the beginnings of the universe and the origins of humanity, going far back in time to look at the process of stellar evolution. He explains how these basic elements are related to the life cycles of the stars and the recycling of matter in the Universe, touching down in Kathmandu and Rio de Janeiro. The US broadcast was originally aired on 27 July 2011, and was titled "Children of the Stars."

3. "Falling"[edit]

This episode documents how gravity has an effect across the universe, and how the relatively weak force creates an orbit. We also see how a neutron star's gravity works. Finally, there is a look back at how research on gravity has enabled us to better understand the cosmos. The US broadcast was originally aired on 10 August 2011 and was titled "The Known."

4. "Messengers"[edit]

The final episode shows how the unique properties of light provide an insight into the origins and development of mankind and the Universe. Cox demonstrates how the speed of light allows scientists to measure distance and time with a trip in a fighter jet that they use to break the sound barrier. The US broadcast originally aired on 17 August 2011 and was titled "On Beams of Light."

The four episodes were repeated as part of the BBC Learning Zone (intended for use in Secondary Schools) in an early morning slot (5.00 - 6.00 am) on Wednesdays from the end of September 2011 on BBC Two. Each one-hour programme carried a subtitle ("Learning Shorts") and was segmented into 3 continuous short films (of approximately 20 minutes' duration) with separate titles, making 12 in total. The original episode titles were not used.

  1. Time & Entropy
  2. Discovering the Speed of Light
  3. Why are Black Holes Invisible?


The initial episode gained viewing figures of 6 million people when it was first shown on the BBC, and it was the first BBC factual show to top the iTunes chart.[2]

The series received generally positive reviews. Chris Harvey of the Daily Telegraph said "Cox is different. Scientists who can capture the popular imagination come along extremely rarely ... These days, science programmes regularly provide some of the most striking images ever seen on the small screen",[3] and Tom Sutcliffe of The Independent commented "it's big on cosmic dazzlement and mind-boggling perspectives and full of epic orchestration and screen-saver graphics."[4] Sam Wollaston of The Guardian chose to focus on Cox's presenting style rather than the scientific content of the programme.[5]

Sound complaints[edit]

Following complaints from viewers that the background music was loud enough to make Cox's narration difficult to hear, the BBC agreed to remix the sound for all the episodes.[6] Cox thought this was a mistake, as he believed the series should be a "cinematic experience".[7]

The DVD and Blu-ray versions are released with the original sound mix as opposed to the broadcast versions.


The Region 2 DVD and Blu-ray discs were released on 4 April 2011.[8][9]

The Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray discs were released on 30 August 2011.[10]

The Region 4 DVD and Blu-ray discs were released on 1 September 2011.[11][12]

The accompanying hardcover book was released on 3 March 2011: Cox, Brian (2011). Wonders of the Universe (book). Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-739582-8. [13]

A soundtrack album of music composed for Wonders of the Universe by Sheridan Tongue (including selected music from Wonders of the Solar System) was released to coincide with the first airing of the show on BBC Two.

International broadcast[edit]

  • In the United States, this programme was aired by Science each Wednesday at 9pm E/P from 27 July 2011.[14] The episodes were renamed and were not shown in order, instead broadcasting episode 2, 1, then 3 and 4.[15]
  • Australia, this programme was aired by ABC1 each Tuesday at 8:30pm from 19 July 2011.[16]
  • In New Zealand, this programme was aired by TVNZ 7 each Saturday at 7:05pm from 6 August 2011.[17]
  • In Denmark, this programme was aired by DR2 every night at 7pm from 2–5 January 2012, retitled as, Universets gåder (Mysteries of the Universe).[18]
  • In India, this programme was aired by BBC Entertainment each Wednesday at 9pm from 7 March 2012.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Seale, Jack (2 April 2012). "New Brian Cox series to be co-produced by Chinese state television". RadioTimes. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Jeffries, Stewart (24 March 2011). "Brian Cox: 'Physics is better than rock'n'roll'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Harvey, Chris (7 March 2011). "Wonders of the Universe, BBC Two, review". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Sutcliffe, Tom (7 March 2011). "The Weekend's TV: Wonders of the Universe, Sun, BBC2 Civilization: Is the West History? Sun, Channel 4". The Independent. London. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Wollaston, Sam (6 March 2011). "TV review: Wonders of the Universe, Civilization: Is the West History?, South Riding". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  6. ^ Singh, Anita (14 March 2011). "BBC turns down the volume on Professor Brian Cox programme after viewer complaints". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "Brian Cox says BBC is wrong over show music". BBC News. BBC. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  8. ^ "BBC Shop: Wonders of the Universe DVD". BBC Shop Online. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 
  9. ^ "BBC Shop: Wonders of the Universe Blu-ray". BBC Shop Online. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 
  10. ^ Lambert, David (20 April 2011). "Wonders of the Universe - The New 4-Part Documentary from BBC/Discovery is Coming to DVD and Blu-ray". TVshowsonDVD.com. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 
  11. ^ "ABC Shop: Wonders of the Universe DVD". ABC Shop Online. Retrieved 2011-08-06. 
  12. ^ "ABC Shop: Wonders of the Universe Blu-ray". ABC Shop Online. Retrieved 2011-08-06. 
  13. ^ "BBC Shop: Wonders of the Universe Book". BBC Shop Online. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 
  14. ^ "Science Channel Announces WONDERS OF THE UNIVERSE - Premieres July 27 at 9:00PM (ET/PT)". RealityTVWebsite.com. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 
  15. ^ "Science Episode Guide: Wonders of the Universe". Science Online. Retrieved 2011-10-08. 
  16. ^ "ABC1 Programming Airdate: Wonders of the Universe (episode one)". ABC Television Publicity. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 
  17. ^ "Coming up in August on TVNZ 7: Spotlight on Science and Innovation". TVNZ. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  18. ^ "DR2: Universets gåder 1-4". Danmarks Radio. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  19. ^ "BBC Entertainment India: TV Schedule 2012/07/03". BBC Entertainment India. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 

External links[edit]