Science, popular culture and conversation are the highlights of “StarTalk” (11 p.m., National Geographic, TV-PG), hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Every Monday evening he will invite figures from the worlds of entertainment, science, politics and academia to discuss ways that science affects culture and daily life.
An expansion of Tyson’s popular podcast and radio series, “StarTalk” will present him in a taped one-on-one interview with a single guest combined with an appearance before a studio audience at New York’s Hayden Planetarium, which he runs. Every “talk show” segment features a comic sidekick, a guest and an appearance by Bill Nye the Science Guy to weigh in on each week’s topic.
Tonight’s guest, George Takei, joins Tyson, comic Leighann Lord and astrophysicist Charles Liu in a conversation about the technology and physics displayed on “Star Trek” during its 1966-69 NBC run as well as its lingering impact on popular culture. Takei speaks at length about his audition for the series and how creator Gene Roddenberry saw the cast’s diversity as part of his hopeful vision for America and the planet’s future. In addition to this idealism, Takei also discusses his small role in one of America’s more shameful chapters: He spent part of his childhood behind the barbwire of a Japanese internment camp during World War II.
Tyson keeps the tone light and goofy, and his panel has plenty of chances to geek out in faithful Trekkie fashion. But the emphasis of “StarTalk” is clearly on the celebration of reason and science as paths to the future as well as reminders of how a society based on superstition and fear can lead to bigotry and backwardness.
Among the guests “StarTalk” has booked over the course of the season: “Interstellar” director Christopher Nolan (April 27), evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (May 18), President Jimmy Carter (May 25) and NASA administrator Charles Bolden (June 15).
“StarTalk” airs tonight right after “Hubble’s Cosmic Journey” (10 p.m., National Geographic, TV-PG), celebrating the 25th anniversary of the space telescope that has provided thousands of images that changed mankind’s perception of the universe. Tyson narrates.
■ “Time Traveling With Brian Unger” (10 p.m., Travel, TV-PG) puts an emphasis on history and CGI graphics as its actor/comedian host takes participants and viewers on a tour of famous and not-so-familiar sights.
The first field trips take us to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and to the Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan, considered one of the first great skyscrapers. Unger offers a wealth of historical nuggets and facts about the engineering behind these 20th-century marvels. Unfortunately, the show sports a pulverizing score and frantic editing style that are less than conducive to reflection.
■ The Ogre casts a shadow on “Gotham” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
■ The first season concludes on a cliff on “Scorpion” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
■ A new killer appears linked to Joe Carroll on “The Following” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
■ Evidence emerges explaining Castle’s two-month void on “Castle” (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG)
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is scheduled on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” (11 p.m., Comedy Central) … Dick Van Dyke, Jenny Slate and Vance Joy appear on “Conan” (11 p.m., TBS) … John Travolta, Amy Schumer and The Waterboys appear on “Late Show With David Letterman” (11:35 p.m., CBS) … Jimmy Fallon welcomes LL Cool J, Rose Byrne and Big Sean on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC).