Neil deGrasse Tyson is about to rock your world. Then he'll rock a few billion more worlds beyond that. The famed astrophysicist is host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a 13-week Fox docuseries about the vast magnificence of our universe and an eye-popping, state-of-the-art successor to Carl Sagan's great '80s series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. In an unprecedented platform, the premiere episode of Cosmos (Sunday, March 9, 9/8c) will also air on National Geographic Channel, FX and seven other Fox networks (check tvguide.com listings). So pack your bags! TV Guide Magazine spoke with Tyson about this mind-expanding trip to infinity and beyond.
TV Guide Magazine: We might expect to see this show on Discovery or PBS...but Fox?
Tyson: Isn't that amazing? It's the mainstreaming of science! And to be promo'd during the Super Bowl was the most exciting thing. Brannon Braga, our director, comes from the Star Trek world. Our director of photography is Bill Pope who did The Matrix. Seth MacFarlane, one of our executive producers, is the guy who made it all happen. He knows everybody! We also have Carl Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, and astronomer Steven Soter, who were Sagan's collaborators on the original series. It's quite a team!
TV Guide Magazine: What's your grand hope for this series?
Tyson: That people will embrace and love science rather than fear it. We want them to stop thinking of science as something to dodge. This is no textbook. No one is pontificating from on high. It's an immersive, you-are-there experience. Science fiction continues to be hugely popular. It's no longer the fringe operation, the cult thing that it once was, and that really tills the soil and stirs the enthusiasm for science fact. We're looking to stimulate scientific literacy, not that we want to turn everyone into a scientist. That's hardly the goal. We need our comedians and journalists, our politicians and bankers. But you will take ownership of the universe, and that is the best way to learn about it.
TV Guide Magazine: What will this Cosmos tell us that we didn't know back in Carl Sagan's day?
Tyson: We know a lot more now but that's not what will distinguish this Cosmos from the previous one. This is not about handing you the latest knowledge of the universe. There's certainly some of that but it's not the main thrust. We're here to convey how and why science matters and why you should care about it. And we do that by using storytelling tool kits that have previously been reserved for drama shows. Bill Pope's camera is a character unto itself. We have fantastic special effects and graphic novel-style animation. It wasn't in anyone's mind to present science this way when Cosmos was done 34 years ago.
TV Guide Magazine: Are 13 hours sufficient for such an infinite topic?
Tyson: That's the way we had to structure the series, so we made it work. [Laughs] I'm not sure what we'll do if this is a big hit and Fox wants another season! In fact, that's my biggest fear. I'm a scientist. I'm not a TV guy. I can't orbit my life around making television. It's not what I do.
TV Guide Magazine: Seriously? You're practically a regular on The Daily Show making science hip and cool!
Tyson: [Laughs] I'm on that show a lot because I'm an easy date. I'm a cab ride away. They know they can always get me! Besides, science was always hip and cool. I'm just here to remind you of that.
TV Guide Magazine: Creationists will, of course, take issue with this series. Do you expect controversy?
Tyson: Maybe. I don't have a problem with people being anti-science. We live in a free country. But I will say this: I am currently preparing a curriculum for a science class and if you want to put some other philosophy into that curriculum that is not based in science, I am not okay with that. Then I must cry foul. We are very clear in this series when we are presenting fact and it is your right to accept it or not. You are free to derive your own analysis and conclusion about things. But those who are open to Cosmos are in for a great emotional and possibly spiritual experience. It's an assault on your mind, body and soul — in the best way possible!