Who doesn't love a good documentary? In the last 10 or 15 years the documentary film has slowly become a dominant cultural force for education and persuasion - often eclipsing more tried and true efforts of magazine and newspaper writing, cable and local news and even, one could argue, the public education system. Documentaries have always been popular, hell they even helped Kuwait drag the US into the first Iraq War, but these days its reaching a whole new level.
In the last decade we have seen whole social movements and giant swaths of public opinion produced and directed by documentary filmmakers. Political, economic, and religious histories have been exposed, altered, and even completely invalidated in the public mind by sheer rhetorical technique accompanied by dramatic moving images and sweeping soundtracks. We have been bowled over by the Michael Moores and harangued by the Alex Joneses, inspired by the Zeitgeists and enraged by the Loose Changes - but what have we learned? Do you know all about Natural Gas and the practice of Hydraulic Fracturing because you watched Gasland? Or maybe it wasn't until you saw the sequel that you really became an expert. The Illuminati conspiracy is super sexy and employs Madonna, Katy Perry and Jay Z, but could it just be a hangover from centuries of Catholic propaganda? And for that matter what really happened on 9/11? A good documentary is an open can of worms.
The reality is that most of us do not know how to think. Not really. We were not taught to look for the signs of good and bad sources of information. We do not know how to receive and process said information so that we can form an educated opinion and make of ourselves informed citizens, essential for the functioning of our free societies. Most of us readily accept the reality that is presented to us by our parents, teachers, friends and mainstream media. Its how civilization is possible in the first place and how social animals collect themselves and grow. We read it in the paper or see it on TV and say "I knew it!" or conversely, "That guy is an asshole!" depending on our guts and our emotions that we believe are our own. We think that a headline that ends with a question mark means that the article is intriguing and controversial (it isn't). We do not know our logical fallacies or logical razors (just BECAUSE it is simple does not make it true) and many of us too often rely solely on the force of our convictions to carry us through an intellectual argument. If you haven't heard this by now let me be the one to inform you - the Universe does not care about your convictions, no matter how cheerful.
Even if some of us have taken some initial baby steps to climb out of the allegorical cave and look around at multiplistic, complex, fractured, messy, unintuitive reality we are often still swept back in by the widely cast net of the undertow just waiting to scoop us up in a warm embrace of confirmation bias that caters to whatever varying level of hope, fear, cynicism, trust, disillusionment, despair or disenfranchisement that we have brought along to meet it. Rarely do any of us escape the prevailing currents and keep diving to reach REAL depth. REAL understanding. And I am not saying that I have.
The fact is every society, every social movement, every marketing, religious, research, or political group, and every sub-culture underground collectivist autonomous food sharing quilting bee has always been 95% sure that they know basically what is going on and what is wrong with the world and that they will have that last bit nailed down within the next 5 years. Rubbish! (to quote the Bard..)
And I should know - I have studied logic, public speaking and persuasive argument, the Media Monopoly, the Rhetoric of Visual Culture, the Society of the Spectacle and the Century of the Self. I have learned to disabuse myself of my own propensity to believe along the narrative lines that I invest in and cherish and I no longer fall for all the same tricks and traps that you do...I only fall for about half of them.
And so after hours and hours of TV learning just what Ancient Astronaut theorists believe, jumping over all the sharks swimming in the Wormholes with Morgan Freeman, escaping doom and gloom and death by asteroid, comet, dying sun, black hole, solar flare, cosmic ray, poison gas atmosphere, and alien contact in The Universe I finally began to search that last bastion of objectivity and rigor that is the Internet for some space documentaries. Heaven help me..
Boy, was it tough slogging. I had to maneuver through all the giant glass structures on the dark side of the Moon, trek around the face on Mars, only to narrowly survive the alignment of Planet X with the center of the galactic whoop dee doo! There were UFO sightings, mind controlling chemtrails, the descent of the Lizard People, secret NASA transmissions - who could keep up? Thankfully I was at same time a card carrying member of the Church of the SubGenius and stuck to a steady diet of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to keep my BS detector functioning and my reservoir of incredulous quips ready at optimal levels (thanks a million Bob, Joel, Mike, Crow, and Servo, you may never know all the good you have done). And yet still, for all my posturing, I really am just as gullible as the worst of us. And so at the end of the day I just keep on searching for that perfect documentary with that perfect blend of provocation and reassurance. Perfect intuition and perfect understanding. Until then I just try to stay away from the ones that sound like they are narrated by that guy who voices every single action/suspense movie trailer in that deep, throaty voice...you know the one:
"In a world..."
"One last job..."
"He would risk, everything..."
All that is a long-winded way to say that I have compiled somewhat of a list of higher-brow-than-thou documentaries, lectures, debates, and conferences based loosely around space science, the history of Astronomy, telescopes, famous scientists, missions, and theories, etc. in order to combat the seemingly endless tide of lazy, delusional, conspiratorial, tiresome, and down right insulting apocalypse-porn style documentaries that overstimulate and Balkanize the already paranoid American palette for space related news and info-tainment. Accordingly, you will notice many of the titles are provided by the BBC, most of them have nothing to do with conspiracy and they all subscribe to the official story so suck it. Some you may have seen, many you may have not. Some may enlighten or bore you. Some may offend. Most have really pretty pictures. Cheers!
<Hubble: 15 Years of Discovery, The Super Telescopes, Galileo's Battle, Virtual Star Party, The Story of Maths, 400 Years of the Telescope, Stargazing: A Guide To The Heavens, Into Deepest Space: Alma, NASA Triumphs and Tragedies, Seeing Stars, Seeing In The Dark, The City Dark, Cosmic Vistas, Discovering Deep Space, 7 Ages of Starlight, When We Left Earth, Final Frontier - Guide To the Universe, The Storytelling of Science, Moon Shot, Astrophysics: Space, Time, and the Universe, Beautiful Equations, Hubble Vision - The Sharpest Shot, Hubble Space Telescope, House Science and National Labs Caucus, Star Party, Carl Sagan's COSMOS, Beyond Belief, Fractals-The Colors of Infinity, Issac Asimov Memorial Debates, NDT: Space As Culture, Stephen Colbert and Neil Degrasse Tyson, Newton's Dark Secrets, Feynman-No Ordinary Genius, In The Shadow Of The Moon, Stargazer, Benoit Mandelbrot-Hunting The Hidden Dimension, Einstein's Big Idea, Mysterious Titan, Space Race: Race For Satellites, How To Build A Satellite, Mission Juno, Mystery Of The Milky Way, To The Moon, ISS First 10 Years Next 10 Years, Failure Is Not An Option, Failure Is Not An Option 2, NDT: The History And Future Of NASA And Space Travel, Poetry Of Science, The Dark Side Of Time, New Horizons: Passport To Pluto And Beyond, NDT: Star Talk w/ Sarah Silverman and Jim Gaffigan,The Overview Effect, Chris Hadfield Space Oddity, and the piéce de la résistance Why The Moon Landings Could NOT Have Been Faked!>
Many videos have multiple parts so follow the rabbit hole down. Please let me know if any of the links are wrong or broken. I'll probably keep updating this list as I see fit so let me know if there are any others I should include and check back periodically. Enjoy!
PS > please don't read youtube comments :(