Open main menu

The Planets (1999 TV series)

The Planets is an educational miniseries produced by the BBC and A&E and released in 1999. The series was remastered in 2004. It documents the Solar System and its nature, formation, and discovery by humans during the space age. The series of eight episodes includes a substantial amount of archival footage from both the United States and Soviet space programs. It also depicts the Solar System through computer graphics. There were a total of eight episodes produced for the series. The series featured appearances from famous pioneering space scientists and explorers, and was narrated by Samuel West.

The Planets
Take A Journey To Worlds Beyond Your Imagination
Developed byChristopher Riley
Directed byDavid McNab
Narrated bySamuel West
Composer(s)Jim Meacock
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes8
Executive producer(s)John Lynch
CinematographySimon Fanthorpe
Running time390 min. (8 episodes)
Original networkBBC Two
Picture format16:9
Audio formatStereo
Original release29 April (1999-04-29) –
17 June 1999 (1999-06-17)
Related showsThe Planets 2019 BBC series


Number Title Original airdate Description
1 Different Worlds 29 April 1999 The first episode covers the early attempts at space travel and the development of rocket technology, and discusses the formation of the planets from the nebular hypothesis and accretion theory.
2 Terra Firma 6 May 1999 The story of the terrestrial planets and their exploration.
3 Giants 13 May 1999 Looking at the giant planets of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune and the journeys of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.
4 Moon 20 May 1999 Detailing the Moon and the race to reach it during the "Space race" years.
5 Star 27 May 1999 Concentrating on the Sun, the early belief in it being a god and the science behind its behaviour.
6 Atmosphere 3 June 1999 A look at the atmosphere of our planet and those in the rest of the Solar System.
7 Life 10 June 1999 A journey into looking for life on other planets and trying to find if life elsewhere really does exist.
8 Destiny 17 June 1999 The final episode explores the future of the Solar System, plus research into extrasolar planets.

Commentators in episode 1 include Hal Levison, George Wetherill, and David Levy.

Commentators in episode 4 include Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmidt, while episode 5 features Apollo 12 Commander Charles Conrad and solar physicist Eugene Parker (of whom the NASA Parker Solar Probe was named in tribute), episode 6 retired USAF Colonel and Project Excelsiot pilot Joe Kittinger, and episode 8 Apollo 17 Commander and last human to walk on the Moon Eugene Cernan.

Commentators in episode 5 include Douglas Gough. It also talks about Angelo Secchi who pioneered the field of astronomical spectroscopy.

Other notable commentators include James Van Allen, Sergei Khrushchev (son of Nikita Kruschev and aerospace engineer), Alexei Leonov, Boris Chertok and Carolyn Porco.

DVD releaseEdit

The DVD of the series was released on 24 January 2000.[1]


A hardcover book accompanying the series broadcast was released on 22 April 1999.[2] The Planets. David McNab and James Younger. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-08044-5

External linksEdit


The Planets at BBC Programmes