Professor Brian Cox presents THE PLANETS, a series that explores the planets of our solar system.

He explains simply and clearly the science behind the subject, so even non-scientists like myself can understand and appreciate it. His boundless enthusiasm is infectious and you wish to learn more about the planets.


In the first episode, he explores the four inner planets, which includes Earth - using film, photographs and CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) to create their stories spanning over a 4.5-billion-year history.

Taking information received from space missions to the three planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars), he tells the story of each one’s tragic development from potential living planet to the dead planet it is today.

He explains how Mercury, Venus and Mars could have sustained life but through fate and chance, did not have their ‘moment in the sun’. An embryonic planet collided with the embryonic Mercury so its orbit was too close to the sun. Venus became a vision of hell as temperatures reached over 450 degrees centigrade and its atmosphere climbed to 96.5 per cent carbon dioxide, through a catastrophic greenhouse effect created by the young sun becoming brighter.

Mars was too small to keep its atmosphere, although he does go on to explain that there is the possibility that microbes may exit where ice that remains melts.

These stories are made more real through photographs from the space missions showing the planets as they are today with CGI of how they may have looked in the past. Particularly spectacular are those which show the rivers and oceans on Venus and Mars, and when Mercury and an embryonic planet collided.

Professor Brian Cox goes on to show that only Earth is unique amongst all the planets - in that it became capable of sustaining life, being just far enough away from the sun. Cue film of oceans, rivers and life; but even here after another 5 billion years or so, our ‘moment in the sun’ will come to an end. Using CGI, he explains how the sun will become a red giant burning our atmosphere away making it a dead planet. The only planet known in the universe to have life will be no more.

All is not doom and gloom for he leaves us with a brighter vision of the future for our solar system. He explains how one of Saturn’s moons, Titan (the size of Venus), will warm up as the sun expands making Titan’s ice melt and water to flow that should sustain life. This icy moon may one day have its ‘moment in the sun.’

Planets is the best science programme on television and it is well worth watching for Brian Cox is a brilliant presenter, and ably assisted by impressive CGI.

- You can catch up on BBC iPlayer.