black cosmos

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is a thirteen-part television series written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter, with Sagan as global presenter. It was executive-produced by Adrian Malone, produced by David Kennard, Geoffrey Haines-Stiles and Gregory Andorfer, and directed by the producers and David Oyster, Richard Wells, Tom Weidlinger, and others. It covered a wide range of scientific subjects including the origin of life and a perspective of our place in the universe.

The series was first broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service in 1980, and was the most widely watched series in the history of American public television until 1990's The Civil War. It is still the most widely watched PBS series in the world. It won an Emmy and a Peabody Award and has since been broadcast in more than 60 countries and seen by over 600 million people, according to the Science Channel. A book to accompany the series was also published.


Cosmos was produced in 1978 and 1979 by Los Angeles PBS affiliate KCET on a roughly $6.3 million budget, with over $2 million additionally allocated to promotion. The show's format is based on previous BBC documentaries such as Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man and David Attenborough's Life on Earth. (The BBC—a co-producer of Cosmos—repaid the compliment by screening the series, but episodes were cut to fit 50-minute slots and shown late at night.) However, unlike those series, which were shot entirely on film, Cosmos used videotape for interior scenes and special effects, with film being used for exteriors.

The series is notable for its groundbreaking use of special effects, which allowed Sagan to apparently walk through environments that were actually models rather than full-sized sets. The soundtrack counted with pieces of music provided by Greek composer Vangelis such as Alpha, Pulstar, and Heaven and Hell Part 1 (the last movement serving as the signature theme music for the show, and is directly referenced by the title of episode 4). Throughout the 13 hours of the series it used many tracks from several 1970s albums such as Albedo 0.39, Spiral, Ignacio, Beaubourg, and China. The worldwide success of the documentary series also put Vangelis' music in the homes and to the attention of a global audience.

Turner Home Entertainment purchased Cosmos from series producer KCET in 1989. In making the move to commercial television, the hour-long episodes were edited down to shorter lengths, and Sagan shot new epilogues for several episodes in which he discussed new discoveries (and alternate viewpoints) that had arisen since the original broadcast. Additionally, a 14th episode was added which consisted of an interview between Sagan and Ted Turner, and this "new" version of the series was eventually released as a VHS box set.

Cosmos had long been unavailable after its initial release because of copyright issues with the included music, but was released in 2000 on worldwide NTSC DVD, which includes subtitles in seven languages, remastered 5.1 sound, as well as an alternate music and sound effects track. In 2005 The Science Channel rebroadcast the series for its 25th anniversary with updated computer graphics, film footage, and digital sound. Despite being shown again on the Science channel, the total amount of time for the original 13 episodes (780 minutes) was reduced 25% to 585 minutes (45 minutes per episode) in order to make room for commercials.


Episode 1: "The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean"

Episode 2: "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue"

Episode 3: "The Harmony of the Worlds"

Episode 4: "Heaven and Hell"

Episode 5: "Blues for a Red Planet"

Episode 6: "Travellers' Tales"

Episode 7: "The Backbone of Night"

Episode 8: "Journeys in Space and Time"

Episode 9: "The Lives of the Stars"

Episode 10: "The Edge of Forever"

Episode 11: "The Persistence of Memory"

Episode 12: "Encyclopaedia Galactica"

Episode 13: "Who Speaks for Earth?"

  • 1. Opening
  • 2. Tlingit and Aztec Indians
  • 3. Who Speaks for Earth?
    • Sagan's vision (told as a dream) of traveling to a far distant world, only to return to find that the human race had long since been destroyed by nuclear warfare
  • 4. Nuclear War and Balance of Terror
  • 5. Alexandrian Library
  • 6. Hypatia
  • 7. Big Bang and the Stuff of Life
    • The beginning of the universe and good endeavors of our civilization
  • 8. Evolution of Life
  • 9. Star Stuff
  • 10. What Humans Have Done
  • 11. We Speak for Earth
    • Sagan's plea to cherish life and continue our journey to the cosmos
  • 12. Cosmos Update 10 years later

Episode 14: "Ted Turner Interviews Dr. Sagan"

Some versions of the series including the first North American home video release included a specially made 14th episode, which consisted of an hour-long interview between Sagan and Ted Turner, in which the two discussed the series and new discoveries in the years since its first broadcast. This unique episode was not included in the DVD release.

Episode name spelling discrepancies

There are differences in episode names and spellings for Episode 6, 8 and 12 depending on the type of media. (7 NTSC DVDs, Fully International version - DVD region zero, ISBN 0-9703511-1-9)

Episode # Opening sequence DVD menu printed on DVD printed on box Cosmos books
Ep. 6 Travellers' Tales Travelers' Tales Travellers' Tales Travellers' Tales Travelers' Tales
Ep. 8 Journeys in Space and Time Travels in Space and Time Travels in Space and Time Travels in Space and Time Travels in Space and Time
Ep. 12 Encyclopaedia Galactica Encyclopaedia Galactica Encyclopedia Galactica Encyclopedia Galactica Encyclopaedia Galactica

  • An Australia/New Zealand DVD version has printed Encyclopedia Gallactica on the box and the DVD sleeve.


Episode 1: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean

03 min 55 sec

For the first time, we have the power to decide the fate of our planet and ourselves. This is a time of great danger, but our species is young, and curious, and brave. It shows much promise.

05 min 20 sec

We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads. But to find the truth, we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact. The cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths; of exquisite interrelationships; of the awesome machinery of nature.

53 min 15 sec

The cosmic calendar compresses the local history of the universe into a single year. If the universe began on January 1st it was not until May that the Milky Way formed. Other planetary systems may have appeared in June, July and August, but our Sun and Earth not until mid-September. Life arose soon after.

56 min 20 sec

We humans appear on the cosmic calendar so recently that our recorded history occupies only the last few seconds of the last minute of December 31st.

57 min 0 sec

We on Earth have just awakened to the great oceans of space and time from which we have emerged. We are the legacy of 15 billion years of cosmic evolution. We have a choice: We can enhance life and come to know the universe that made us, or we can squander our 15 billion-year heritage in meaningless self-destruction. What happens in the first second of the next cosmic year depends on what we do, here and now, with our intelligence and our knowledge of the cosmos.

Episode 2: One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue

12 min 45 sec

The essence of artificial selection, for a horse or a cow, a grain of rice or a Heike Crab is this: many characteristics are inherited, they breed true. Humans encourage the reproduction of some varieties and discourage the reproduction of others, the variety selected for eventually becomes abundant, the variety selected against becomes rare, maybe extinct. But if artificial selection makes such changes in only a few thousand years, what must natural selection, working for billions of years be capable of? The answer is all the beauty and diversity in the biological world.

55 min 6 sec

Physics and chemistry permits such life forms. Art presents them with a certain reality but nature is not obliged to follow our speculations."..."Biology is more like history than it is like physics. You have to know the past to understand the present. There is no predictive theory of biology, just as there is no predictive theory of history. The reason is the same: both subjects are still too complicated for us.

Episode 3: The Harmony of the Worlds

55 min 0 sec

As a boy Kepler had been captured by a vision of cosmic splendour, a harmony of the worlds which he sought so tirelessly all his life. Harmony in this world eluded him. His three laws of planetary motion represent, we now know, a real harmony of the worlds, but to Kepler they were only incidental to his quest for a cosmic system based on the Perfect Solids, a system which, it turns out, existed only in his mind. Yet from his work, we have found that scientific laws pervade all of nature, that the same rules apply on Earth as in the skies, that we can find a resonance, a harmony, between the way we think and the way the world works.

When he found that his long cherished beliefs did not agree with the most precise observations, he accepted the uncomfortable facts, he preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions. That is the heart of science.

Episode 4: Heaven and Hell

33 min 20 sec

There are many hypotheses in science that are wrong. That's perfectly all right; it's the aperture to finding out what's right. Science is a self-correcting process. To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny. The worst aspect of the Velikovsky affair is not that many of his ideas were wrong or silly or in gross contradiction to the facts; rather, the worst aspect is that some scientists attempted to suppress Velikovsky's ideas. The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge and there is no place for it in the endeavor of science. We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system, and the history of our study of the solar system shows clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources.

35 min 59 sec

"I can’t see a thing on the surface of Venus."

"Why not?"

"Because it’s covered with a dense layer of clouds."

"Well, what are clouds made of?"

"Water, of course. Therefore, Venus must have an awful lot of water on it. Therefore the surface must be wet."

"If the surface is wet, it’s probably a swamp. If there’s a swamp, there are ferns, if there are ferns maybe there are even dinosaurs."

"Observation: You couldn’t see a thing."

"Conclusion: Dinosaurs."

Episode 5: Blues for a Red Planet

11 min 41 sec

He believed the planet was inhabited by an older and wiser race perhaps very different from us. He believed that the seasonal changes in the dark areas were due to the growth and decay of vegetation. He believed that the planet was Earth-like. All in all, he believed too much.

Episode 7: The Backbone of Night

0 min 40 sec

The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.

37 min 45 sec

So a crisis in doctrine occurred when they discovered that the square root of two was irrational. That is: the square root of two could not be represented as the ratio of two whole numbers, no matter how big they were. "Irrational" originally meant only that. That you can't express a number as a ratio. But for the Pythagoreans it came to mean something else, something threatening, a hint that their world view might not make sense, the other meaning of "irrational".

38 min 10 sec

Instead of wanting everyone to share and know of their discoveries the Pythagoreans suppressed the square root of two and the dodecahedron. The outside world was not to know. The Pythagoreans had discovered, in the mathematical underpinnings of nature, one of the two most powerful scientific tools, the other of course is experiment, but instead of using their insight to advance the collective voyage of human discovery they made of it little more than the hocus pocus of a mystery cult. Science and mathematics were to be removed from the hands of the merchants and the artisans.

40 min 35 sec

But why had science lost its way in the first place? What appeal could these teachings of Pythagoras and Plato have had for their contemporaries? They provided, I believe, an intellectually respectable justification for a corrupt social order. The mercantile tradition that had led to Ionian science also led to a slave economy. You could get richer if you owned a lot of slaves. Athens in the time of Plato and Aristotle had a vast slave population. All that brave Athenian talk about democracy applied only to a privileged few.

Episode 8: Journeys in Space and Time

54 min 55 sec

Those worlds in space are as countless as all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the earth. Each of those worlds is as real as ours and every one of them is a succession of incidents, events, occurrences which influence its future. Countless worlds, numberless moments, an immensity of space and time. And our small planet at this moment, here we face a critical branch point in history, what we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants, it is well within our power to destroy our civilisation and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity we could plunge our world into a time of darkness deeper than the time between the collapse of classical civilisation and the Italian Renaissance. But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet. To enhance enormously our understanding of the universe and to carry us to the stars.

Episode 11: The Persistence of Memory

37 min 25 sec

It might be more efficient if all civic systems were periodically replaced from top to bottom. But, as in the brain, everything has to work during the renovation. So the city mostly adds new parts while the old parts continue, more or less, to function...

Or consider Third Avenue. In the 17th century you made your way uptown on foot or on horseback. A little later, there were coaches – the horses prancing, the coachmen cracking their whips. And then these were replaced by horse-drawn trolleys, clanging along fixed tracks on this avenue. Then electrical technology developed and a great elevated railway line was constructed called the Third Avenue El, which dominated the street until 1954, when it was utterly demolished. Anyway, the El was then replaced by buses and taxicabs, which still are the main forms of public transportation on Third Avenue. Now as gasoline becomes a rare commodity, the combustion engine will be replaced by something else. Maybe public transportation on Third Avenue in the 21st century will be by, I don’t know, pneumatic tubes or electric cars. Every step in the evolution of Third Avenue’s transport has been conservative following a route first laid down in the 17th century. But the brain is still more conservative than the city. If this were the brain, we might have horse-drawn trolleys and the El and buses all operating simultaneously, redundantly, competitively.

Episode 12: Encyclopedia Galactica

0 min 45 sec

In the vastness of the Cosmos there must be other civilizations far older and more advanced than ours.

1 min 10 sec

What counts is not what sounds plausible, not what we would like to believe, not what one or two witnesses claim, but only what is supported by hard evidence rigorously and skeptically examined. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

7 min 25 sec

For all I know we may be visited by a different extraterrestrial civilization every second Tuesday, but there's no support for this appealing idea. The extraordinary claims are not supported by extraordinary evidence.
(Back reference to UFO abduction claims)

55 min 40 sec

Text Quote

Extract of entry in fictional 'Encyclopaedia Galactica' for Earth

Technology: exponentiating / fossil fuels / nuclear weapons / organized warfare / environmental pollution.

Probability of survival (per 100 yr): 40%.

Episode 13: Who Speaks for Earth?

0 min 40 sec

Episode opening voiceover; quote from The Bible, Deuteronomy 30:19 , American Standard Version

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed

4 min 40 sec

The old man made himself look hard at the Raven and saw that it was not a great bird from the sky but the work of men like himself. This first encounter turned out to be peaceful. The men of the La Pérouse expedition were under strict orders to treat with respect any people they might discover, an exceptional policy for its time and after.

6 min 10 sec

Unlike the La Pérouse expedition the Conquistadors sought not knowledge but Gold. They used their superior weapons to loot and murder, in their madness they obliterated a civilisation. In the name of piety, in a mockery of their religion, the Spaniards utterly destroyed a society with an Art, Astronomy and Architecture the equal of anything in Europe. We revile the Conquistadors for their cruelty and shortsightedness, for choosing death. We admire La Pérouse and the Tlingit for their courage and wisdom, for choosing life. The choice is with us still, but the civilisation now in jeopardy is all humanity. As the ancient myth makers knew we're children equally of the earth and the sky. In our tenure on this planet we've accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage, propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders, all of which puts our survival in some doubt. But we've also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience and a great soaring passionate intelligence, the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity. Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet Earth. But up there in the Cosmos an inescapable perspective awaits. National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our Earth as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and the citadel of the stars. There are not yet obvious signs of extraterrestrial intelligence and this makes us wonder whether civilisations like ours rush inevitably headlong into self-destruction.

17 min 40 sec

Every thinking person fears nuclear war and every technological nation plans for it. Everyone knows it's madness, and every country has an excuse.

22 min 35 sec

Our global civilisation it clearly on the edge of failure and the most important task it faces, preserving the lives and well-being of its citizens and the future habitability of the planet. But if we're willing to live with the growing likelihood of nuclear war shouldn't we also been willing to explore vigorously every possible means to prevent nuclear war. Shouldn't we consider in every nation major changes in the traditional ways of doing things, a fundamental restructuring of economic political social and religious institutions. We've reached a point where there can be no more special interests or special cases, nuclear arms threaten every person on the Earth. Fundamental changes in society are sometimes labelled impractical or contrary to human nature, as if nuclear war were practical or as if there's only one human nature. But fundamental changes can clearly be made, we're surrounded by them. In the last two centuries abject slavery which was with us for thousands of years has almost entirely been eliminated in a stirring worldwide revolution. Women, systematically mistreated for millennia are gradually gaining the political and economic power traditionally denied them and some wars of aggression have recently been stopped or curtailed because of a revulsion felt by the people in the aggressor nations. The old appeals to racial sexual religious chauvinism and to rabid nationalist fervor are beginning not to work. A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet. One of the great revelations of the age of space exploration is the image of the earth finite and lonely, somehow vulnerable, bearing the entire human species through the oceans of space and time.

25 Min 10 Sec

Eratosthenes was the director of the great library of Alexandria, the Centre of science and learning in the ancient world. Aristotle had argued that humanity was divided into Greeks and everybody else, whom he called barbarians and that the Greeks should keep themselves racially pure. He thought it was fitting for the Greeks to enslave other peoples. But Erathosthenes criticized Aristotle for his blind chauvinism, he believed there was good and bad in every nation.

28 min 30 sec

Imagine how different our world would be if those discoveries had been explained and used for the benefit of everyone, if the humane perspective of Eratosthenes had been widely adopted and applied. But this was not to be. Alexandria was the greatest city the Western world had ever seen. People from all nations came here to live to trade to learn, on a given day these harbours were thronged with merchants and scholars and tourists, it's probably here that the word Cosmopolitan realised its true meaning of a citizen not just of a nation but of the Cosmos, to be a citizen of the Cosmos. Here were clearly the seeds of our modern world, but why didn't they take root and flourish why instead did the Western world slumber through a 1000 years of darkness until Columbus and Copernicus and their contemporaries rediscovered the work done here? I cannot give you a simple answer but I do know this, there is no record in the entire history of the library that any of the illustrious scholars and scientists who worked here ever seriously challenged a single political or economic or religious assumption of the society in which they lived. The permanence of the stars was questioned, the justice of slavery was not.

36 min 20 sec

History is full of people who out of fear or ignorance or the lust for power have destroyed treasures of immeasurable value which truly belong to all of us. We must not let it happen again.

54 min 25 sec

Our loyalties are to the species and the planet, we speak for Earth.

Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos ancient and vast from which we sprang.

55 min 20 sec

Cosmos Update 1990.

Carl Sagan's final piece to camera for the series.

The greatest thrill for me in reliving this adventure has been not just that we have completed the preliminary reconnaissance with spacecraft of the entire solar system, and not just that we've discovered astonishing structures in the realm of galaxies, but especially that some of Cosmos's boldest dreams about this world are coming closer to reality.

Since this series' maiden voyage, the impossible has come to pass: Mighty walls that maintained insuperable ideological differences have come tumbling down; deadly enemies have embraced and begun to work together. The imperative to cherish the Earth and protect the global environment that sustains all of us has become widely accepted, and we've begun, finally, the process of reducing the obscene number of weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps we have, after all, decided to choose life.

But we still have light years to go to ensure that choice. Even after the summits and the ceremonies and the treaties, there are still some 50,000 nuclear weapons in the world—and it would require the detonation of only a tiny fraction of them to produce a nuclear winter, the predicted global climatic catastrophe that would result from the smoke and the dust lifted into the atmosphere by burning cities and petroleum facilities.

The world scientific community has begun to sound the alarm about the grave dangers posed by depleting the protective ozone shield and by greenhouse warming, and again we're taking some mitigating steps, but again those steps are too small and too slow. The discovery that such a thing as nuclear winter was really possible evolved out of the studies of Martian dust storms. The surface of Mars, fried by ultraviolet light, is also a reminder of why it's important to keep our ozone layer intact. The runaway greenhouse effect on Venus is a valuable reminder that we must take the increasing greenhouse effect on Earth seriously.

Important lessons about our environment have come from spacecraft missions to the planets. By exploring other worlds we safeguard this one. By itself, I think this fact more than justifies the money our species has spent in sending ships to other worlds. It is our fate to live during one of the most perilous and, at the same time, one of the most hopeful chapters in human history.

Our science and our technology have posed us a profound question. Will we learn to use these tools with wisdom and foresight before it's too late? Will we see our species safely through this difficult passage so that our children and grandchildren will continue the great journey of discovery still deeper into the mysteries of the Cosmos?

That same rocket and nuclear and computer technology that sends our ships past the farthest known planet can also be used to destroy our global civilization.

Exactly the same technology can be used for good and for evil. It is as if there were a God who said to us, “I set before you two ways: You can use your technology to destroy yourselves or to carry you to the planets and the stars. It's up to you.”

Music of Cosmos

Some of the music from the television series was compiled on CD:

Cosmos, a special edition

The 1986, special edition of Cosmos is distinctive in many ways. It featured new narration by and filmed segments with Sagan, including content from Sagan's book Comet and discussion of his theory of nuclear winter (none of which was used in subsequent television or home video releases.) The series is much shorter than the original, running four and a half hours. It premiered as one marathon program on the TBS network and has been repeated as six episodes each about 45 minutes in length:

  1. Other Worlds part 1
  2. Other Worlds part 2
  3. Children of the Stars part 1
  4. Children of the Stars part 2
  5. Message from the Sky part 1
  6. Message from the Sky part 2

Visually, the series uses several of the historic sequences and animations from the original series, but interweaved are also new computer animated sequences and additional scenes with host Carl Sagan. As known today, the special edition version was at least broadcast in the United States, Japan, Germany, and Australia.

This version of Cosmos contains a mix of music used in the original series, together with a unique score by Vangelis, composed specially for this series. This score in some sources is also referred to as "Comet", with "Comet 16" acting as the title and ending theme of each episode. "Comet 16" is the only one of the total 21 cues that has officially been released. Some of the new music also appears in the 2000 remastered DVD release.


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