GBH Openvault

NOVA; Origins: Back To The Beginning


Anamorphic stunt version Origins: Where are the Aliens & Back to the Beginning

License Clip

This program cannot be made available on Open Vault.

More material may be available from this program at the GBH Archives. If you would like research access to the collection at GBH, please email

Origins: Back To The Beginning
Program Number


Series Description

Premiered March 1974 NOVA is a general-interest documentary series that addresses a single science issue each week. Billed as "science adventures for curious grown-ups" when it first aired in March, 1974, NOVA continues to offer an informative and entertaining approach to a challenging subject. 1996 marked NOVA's 23rd season, which makes it the longest-running science program on national television. It is also one of television's most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over. Series release date: 3/3/1974

Program Description

Who would have predicted that a hot spot left over from the Big Bang would eventually lead to the Earth, the cosmos — and to us? NOVA covers all the exciting steps in between on ORIGINS, a four-part miniseries about the beginnings of Earth, life and the universe. Hosting the series is astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and one of the world’s most popular lecturers on astronomy. Tyson is the author of numerous books, including The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist and ORIGINS: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, coauthored with Donald Goldsmith, to be released by W.W. Norton simultaneously with the series premiere. Tyson is also widely known for his regular column, “Universe,” in Natural History magazine. Among his lesser-known distinctions, he was voted “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” by People magazine in 2000. 3111 - Earth is Born/How Life Began gives viewers a spectacular glimpse of the tumultuous first billion years of Planet Earth - a time of continuous catastrophe. Vivid animation lets viewers witness the traumatic birth of the moon from a titanic collision between Earth and an object believed to have been the size of Mars. Bombarded by meteors and comets, rocked by massive volcanic eruptions, and scoured by hot acid rain, the early Earth seems a highly improbable place for life to have taken root. Despite such violent beginnings, scientists have found new clues that life-giving water and oxygen appeared on our planet much earlier than previously thought. How Life Began - zeroes in on the mystery of exactly how it happened. Join the hunt for hardy microbes that flourish in the most unlikely places: inside rocks in a mine shaft two miles down, inside a cave dripping with acid as strong as a car battery's, and in noxious gas bubbles erupting from the Pacific ocean floor. The survival of these tough microorganisms suggests they may be related to the planet's first primitive life forms. Tyson deepens the search by investigating tantalizing and controversial chemical "signatures" of life inside three-billion-year-old rocks and meteorites found around the world. 3113 - Where are the Aliens?/Back to the Beginning Tyson explores such provocative questions as: would "ETs" resemble us or the creatures of science fiction? Are there "aliens" already amongst us on Planet Earth - brainy creatures whose intelligence is very different from our own? And are planets on which life can flourish rare or common in our universe? Hour Four starts with a bang - the big bang in which everything began. "Origins: Back to the Beginning" explores how the colossal, mind- boggling forces of the early universe made it possible for habitable worlds to emerge. The clues begin with a race among scientists to capture lingering echoes of the big bang's ferocious energy in a microwave "whisper" from deep space. The race pits underdog astronomer Tony Readhead and his improvised detector in the high Andes against NASA scientists and their state-of-the-art satellite probe. Tyson shares his excitement with viewers as computer animation of the big bang's echo emerges on the screen. It's as close as we can get to a "photograph" of the primordial universe. Here we glimpse the seeds from which all the galaxies, stars, and planets eventually grew. In the search for answers to the many provocative questions the program raises, Tyson catches up with one of astronomy's most exciting recent findings: the discovery of the first planets outside our own solar system. Detecting more than 100 of these planets over the last few years, astronomers have developed an ingenious technique worthy of Sherlock Holmes for deducing whether or not they might be suitable for life. As for the ultimate question - whether we can contact an alien civilization - Tyson tells us to stay tuned, reminding us that the quest for origins has involved us in one incredible surprise after another.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “NOVA; Origins: Back To The Beginning,” 08/04/2004, GBH Archives, accessed April 16, 2024,
MLA: “NOVA; Origins: Back To The Beginning.” 08/04/2004. GBH Archives. Web. April 16, 2024. <>.
APA: NOVA; Origins: Back To The Beginning. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.