CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: Eternally boyish Professor Brian truly is a wonder of the solar system
Brian Cox’s Adventures In Space And Time
The Queen Mother: War And Widowhood
Scientists have several theories to explain how Professor Brian Cox has not aged a day since his first major astronomy series, Wonders Of The Solar System, a decade ago.
One is that, when he’s not on camera, the BBC stores him in a capsule of liquid nitrogen, similar to the transport pods on board that spaceship in Alien.
For months on end, he’s kept frozen in a state of suspended animation. That single streak of grey in his Beatle cut is really a strand of ice.
Other theoretical physicists say his ageless appearance is something to do with Einstein’s theory of relativity, E=MC2 . . . where E is Eternal youth, M is Moisturiser and C2 is really good hair Conditioner.
Scientists have several theories to explain how Professor Brian Cox has not aged a day since his first major astronomy series, Wonders Of The Solar System, a decade ago
It was clear how little the professor has changed, as he replayed some of his favourite moments from his pop science shows, in Brian Cox’s Adventures In Space And Time (BBC2).
He sat alone in a private cinema, reliving his greatest close-ups, like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. It’s strange to think that when Miss Swanson played Norma Desmond, the time-ravaged movie queen, she was only 50 years old. Prof Brian is 53.
‘I think our knowledge has really moved on since we made those programmes,’ he mused. If it has, we didn’t learn much about it. There was little, for instance, about the recent discoveries by Nasa’s Mars rovers.
But there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy Prof Brian at his boyish best. In the Atlas mountains of Morocco, under a spectacular starscape, he grabbed a charred stick from the fire and began scrawling in the dust, to explain why planets seem to zigzag through the sky.
Other theoretical physicists say his ageless appearance is something to do with Einstein’s theory of relativity, E=MC2 . . . where E is Eternal youth, M is Moisturiser and C2 is really good hair Conditioner
In a U.S. bar he floated, weightless with excitement at meeting one of his heroes — Charlie Duke, the youngest astronaut to walk on the moon.
How was it possible, he asked Charlie, that when computers were still practically clockwork, the Americans could stage a string of lunar missions? Charlie grinned: ‘400,000 people and an unlimited budget, you can do a lot.’
The episode ended with extraordinary images beamed back from Pluto. Parts of the surface are smooth as a skating rink, Prof Brian explained, because of the subterranean ocean of water warmed by radioactive elements.
Who would guess there’s a heated swimming pool, five billion miles from the sun? I wonder if it’s on the green travel list . . .
Prof Brian is also older than the Queen Mother was when her husband George VI died and her daughter ascended to the throne. In 1952, she was only 51.
Photos from the time, on The Queen Mother: War And Widowhood (C5), made her seem much older — though perhaps it’s just difficult to imagine her as anything but the sweet centenarian she became.
In fact, as this revealing portrait showed, she was a glamorous figure in the Thirties — dressed as a fairytale royal in white by designer Norman Hartnell, and photographed by Cecil Beaton with echoes of Greta Garbo.
This three-part series is proving a cut above the usual royal documentaries. It’s history, not hagiography.
It’s also an opportunity to see Lady Colin Campbell in wickedly spiteful form, with so many acid asides that she sometimes takes over the show.
‘The Queen Mother undermined the relationship between Charles and his parents,’ she declared. ‘She would always encourage him in his hypersensitivities.’
And when Princess Margaret was in a strop, Lady C added, she would taunt her mother that she was not born royal ‘and never would be’. Ouch.
Disciplinarian of the week: Doris, the head of the Langham hotel in London, fondly recalled her first boss on Britain’s Most Luxurious Hotels (C4). ‘He knew when to spank me and when to whip me,’ she sighed. Have a word with HR, dear.
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