Review: ‘Christmas Star’

David Taylor's script goes over the story of Joseph and Mary, of the Wise Men , of Herod's rule and decisions to murder children under two years, even as it discusses the ideas of Babylonian and ancient Chinese astrologers. Unveiling computer graphics, scale models and effective desert vistas, program explores various theories of astrogeography. With three stand-ins for the Holy Family, program does an effective job of recreating a no-frills nativity scene and subsequent presentation of the gifts.

David Taylor’s script goes over the story of Joseph and Mary, of the Wise Men , of Herod’s rule and decisions to murder children under two years, even as it discusses the ideas of Babylonian and ancient Chinese astrologers. Unveiling computer graphics, scale models and effective desert vistas, program explores various theories of astrogeography. With three stand-ins for the Holy Family, program does an effective job of recreating a no-frills nativity scene and subsequent presentation of the gifts.

Hughes, who’s penned a book on the subject, poses theories and discards them, and contemporary stargazers toss in other thoughts. An American comet whiz believes the Christmas Star is a myth but reluctantly agrees it could have been a comet.

It may have been a nova, a supernova, the planet Venus or possibly a conjunction of two planets. Researchers use a combo of history and early astrology plus historical astronomy to pin down the ID of the star; no one sees it as a divine guide to the wise men.

Those wise men, Hughes suggests, may have been as many as a dozen, traveling with servants for three months.

Much of what Hughes proposes uses qualifying adverbs to modify conclusions. Hughes reveals his conclusions for his eventual revelation about the star: by pinpointing Jesus’ birth date as Sept. 15, 7 B.C.; by using a chart to establish eclipses; by rearranging Herod’s death (based on an eclipse of the moon); and by fixing three conjunctions of two planets, as did German astronomer Johannes Kepler centuries ago.

Christmas Star

(Sun. (19), 8-9 p.m., Learning Channel)

Production

Filmed by York Films of England, the Learning Channel, System TV, S4C, YLE, TVO and La Chaie, Canada. Producers, Terence Murtagh, David Taylor; director, David Poyser; writer, Taylor.

Crew

Camera, Desmond Seal; editor, Sarah Hicks, sound, Paul Harris; music, Ernie Wood.

Cast

Narrators: Martin Jarvis, Elin Rhys.
With David Hughes, astronomer-author at England's Sheffield University, serving up various ideas about the subject, docu speculating on the Star of Bethlehem suggests several possibilities, cutting through what it refers to as the "glitz and mythology of Christmas" to give Hughes the last word. It's worth hearing Hughes' concept, whether it's new or not.
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