The ratings are in, and Game of Thrones’ Season 7 premiere smashed previous records with the force of a Mountain head-crush. HBO’s hit series attracted 16.1 million viewers across its various platforms — a 50 percent increase over last season’s opener.
And one of those viewers was none other than acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
“I’m Down Under and I had to, like, hack into three different computer systems to see the thing,” says Tyson, jokingly. “No, but we did see it legitimately. It is fascinating how much they’re investing in this world that they’ve created.”
Tyson is currently in Australia for a series of shows, although we’re busy discussing the new video game Space Odyssey, which describes itself as “an awe-inspiring gaming experience of galactic exploration and colonization.” The science comes courtesy of Tyson, and the game is currently raising funds via Kickstarter. Luminaries like Bill Nye, Neil Gaiman, and George R.R. Martin, the architect of Game of Thrones, aided in the creation of several of the game’s galaxies.
A longer feature will be running Thursday on the game — and Tyson’s thoughts on recent developments in space — but during our chat I managed to pick his brain about the aforementioned fantasy series we both admire, and that record-breaking Season 7 premiere that saw Arya massacre House Frey, an Ed Sheeran cameo, Littlefinger-orchestrated tension between Jon Snow and Sansa, and the arrival of a naughty new villain.
“Interestingly, it had no boobs in it!” exclaims Tyson, unleashing a hearty laugh. “I think the best part was the end just because that sets up the whole season right there—coming back to the castle and everyone gazing upon it. Initially, I thought the scene was a little too extended, like alright I get it everyone’s coming back, but you need that to develop the mood for future episodes.”
The scene Tyson is referring to is when Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen, aka the Mother of Dragons, returns to Dragonstone, the Targaryen’s ancestral home, and takes in its historical surroundings.
“For me, Game of Thrones is not so much why everyone else likes it, but I like that they’re creating a world that needs to be self-consistent,” the science wizard continues. “Winter is coming, so what does that mean? I’m thinking about it as an astrophysicist: What kind of planet would that be? What kind of orbit would it have? What kind of star is it? It’s clearly not Earth, although they’re all humans — well, except for the dragons!”
When I ask Tyson if he has any bold predictions for Season 7, he demurs.
“No predictions. I’m bad at that,” he says. “Evidence: From the original Star Trek series, which I saw in real-time, I was confident in the future of warp drives, photon torpedoes, transporters, but those doors that magically opened just by approaching them was an impossible thing to me. So don’t come to me for predictions.”
He does, however, marvel at the fictional world that author George R.R. Martin — along with the show’s co-creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — have created.
“Love their ‘world.’ Especially their ‘winter,’ the wall of ice, and other climactic (ab)normalities,” offers Tyson. “Also, that the dragons are anatomically correct, with forelimbs becoming the wings (as in bats), rather than having separate wings sprouting from their backs, which has no precedent in Earth’s biodiversity. Create any world you want, just make it self-consistent, and base it on something accessible. I’m a big fan of mark Twain’s quote: ‘First get your facts straight. Then distort them at your leisure.’”