Pop idol turned top boffin Brian Cox doesn’t shy away from the big issues. With programmes such as Wonders of the Solar System, Wonders of Life and Human Universe, Cox, the heir apparent to His Eminence Sir David Attenborough, has dared to dream on a cosmic scale. Are there any limits to his mighty intellect?
In his latest adventure, Forces of Nature (BBC1, Monday), the ambitious prof boldly seeks to illustrate the workings of ‘the underlying laws of nature’. As wistful electronic music tinkled Eno ishly in the background, he assured us, in a metaphysical tone, that ‘the whole universe, the whole of physics, is contained in a snowflake’. Representing the combined effects of gravity, electromagnetism, the nuclear force of atoms and symmetry, the snowflake — no less than a bee, a manatee or even Professor Cox himself — is an index of the building blocks of creation.
Interesting enough, I suppose, if you couldn’t find a more pressing appointment, but, as with many of the BBC’s favourite faces — Lucy Worsley, for instance, or Bettany Hughes — you suspect that the chief objective is to get these chosen ones back on the screen at any price, with the content of the programmes a secondary consideration. If Worsley wanted to make films about darning socks in the regency era or the social history of the cucumber sandwich, well …she probably already is.
In the case of Professor Cox, with his Jagger esque lips and scallydelic hair, we’re seeing significant signs of Hollywood esque distortion. Forces of Nature is a co production with PBS in the States and France Télévisions, and has clearly been conceived as a multi territory, poly format blockbuster. It looks more like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar than a mere science documentary, since every thimbleful of scientific erudition has been stirred into a gallon of sumptuous high def travelogue footage across a carefully colour coordinated range of destinations.