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Dogon artwork from In Search Of S04E13 The Dark Star
Trippy.

We open on African ritual dancers and a driving rhythm of drums. Nimoy informs us that the dance has meaning, which of course is true. It's a dance of religious significance, so Nimoy is correct when he tells us that it depicts the relationship of the dancers to the heavens. However, he claims that that it maps that relationship 'precisely', and straight away I am worried. Next we're looking at something in a cave and being told that this tribe believes it comes from a distant star, and then we're looking at a radio telescope.

I don't know where we're going this episode, but I'm guessing it will be weird, and also at least a little insulting. Sure enough, we're asked how a 'primitive' people found a 'dark star'. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E13 The Dark Star"

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The skeleton of St Stefan Leonard Nimoys; In Search Of s04e12 The Ten Commandments
Hi! I'm St Stefan... No, I'm not related to the Crypt Keeper, but don't worry I get that all the time. Anyhoo, you may be wondering what I have to do with the Ten Commandments. Read on!

We open on a shot of a mountain – 'Sunrise at Mount Sinai' Nimoy intones. I'm not a religious man, but seriously – chills. There's a shot of some tourists/pilgrims at the mountain while Nimoy tells us that this is supposedly the mountain where Moses was given the Ten Commandments. Nimoy wonders if they're coming to the right place.

There are several flavours of In Search Of… episode, and I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that the Biblical episodes are my least favourite. There's a terrible saminess to them. Lingering shots of the desert, pseudo-Middle Eastern music and the weird and patronising insistence that little has changed in the Holy Lands in thousands of years. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E12 The Ten Commandments"

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ID art of DB Cooper from In Search Of S04E11 with Leonard NimoyThe intro for this episode is very different from the usual In Search Of… into. There's the usual quick cutting between images and even a re-enactment (of a parachute jump) but it's all done in that driving, matter-of-fact style of true crime reporting – a quick walk rather than the show's usual ambling gait. Nimoy's narration takes on a hard-edged, somewhat urgent tone as he gives a quick overview of the case of DB Cooper.

I don't know much about the DB Cooper skyjacking, other that the name of the hijacker 'DB Cooper' was an alias, he was a robber rather than a terrorist, he was never captured, and got away with the then-princely sum of $US200 000. Is this episode going to be straightforward crime reporting or is are we going to discover that he was a Minoan agent of the Martians? ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E11 DB Cooper"

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Unlike the Bigfoot episode, we actually have a bit of budget here. We see people in Bigfoot costumes on snow and in a forest as Nimoy waxes lyrical about man's fondness for monsters. Remote corners of the Earth, and all that stuff.

In Seach Of s04E09 The Abominable Snowman
It may take many years of searching to find the mysterious yeti, but... Oh, wait! Found him!

And now we're building up professional Bigfoot hunter Peter Byrne. Just a lot of hero shots of him trekking through the forest. Nimoy points out that Byrne has never seen a yeti, but has been looking for one for ages. Nimoy, sitting by a fireplace, talks about how the legend of the yeti came to be known in the English speaking world, brought back by British mountaineers. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E09 The Abominable Snowman"

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We open on pounding drums, flute music, a re-enactment of a sacrifice and Steadicam footage of Mexican pyramids.

This episode does right what it says on the tin.

In Search Of s04e08 Mexican Pyramids
Could this be a target? Perhaps a military target?

So, guy machete-ing his way through the Guatemalan rainforest. He's identified as a chiclero, a guy who harvests sap from the chicle tree to make chewing gum. Actually, that sounds kind of badass. Could we have a documentary about these guys? No, we're just told that 'often' they're the people who found Mayan ruins in the jungle.

Lovely footage of the Mayan pyramids, which Nimoy call 'the most awesome works of antiquity' which is pretty true. There's some very interesting stuff on the Pyramid of Chalule which, in terms of volume, is the largest building on Earth. It was build by building pyramids on top of earlier pyramids until they had a super pyramid.

We move onto excavations of an Aztec pyramid in Mexico city. Some shots of a model of Tenochtitlan, nice. And then Nimoy, in a white shirt and bellbottoms standing… somewhere outdoors? Which I guess is meant to be Mexico. He taps the side of an Earth mound and calls it a pyramid, but let's be honest, they didn't ship the guy down to Guatemala for a one minute link. Anyway, he talks about how the Conquistadors thought that the Mesoamerican pyramids were tombs, and wondered who was buried there.

Moore footage of the pyramids, noting that there's a temple at the top of each one. He wonders why these temples required such massive bases. We'll come back to this.

We're looking in detail at Teotiuacan. He notes that the local pyramids are smaller than the Egyptian pyramids, and states that it's not possible to know if the builders of Teotiuacan had dealings with the Egyptians. And, of course, this was where it had to be going.

Some stuff in a tunnel under Teotiuacan that leads to a natural cavern, so maybe there are chambers in the pyramid above? Some very pretty footage of the sun rising over the pyramid and suggestion that it was used for timekeeping. And then we're into the end of Teotiuacan. The narration proclaims that 'no other great city left so few traces of its demise' while the camera is pointed at a bloody big pyramid – which is a pretty massive trace of a city's demise, if you ask me. After that, the narration builds up how little we know about the city. Which is probably better than its usual job of trying to impose strange solutions on mysteries.

Now we get to the pure speculation. Nimoy just asks a bunch of questions about what the ancient Mayans were all about, while the camera looks around. Then suddenly wer'e not asking questions about the Aztecs, we're asking about the Maya. They had observatories, you know. They had a calendar.

This part isn't terrible, it's just that they're flipping from topic to topic very fast. In a serious documentaty about Mesoamerican cultures, we'd give a little more space to examine each issue. Anyway, it concludes with the question that if the Mayans were so in death, then why no tombs?

Anywhy, this one archaeologist did find some bodies under a pyramid? Okay, looking it up… Yep! He did indeed find the tomb of the Mayan ruler Pakal. We go into this in quite a lot of detail, and it's probably the most interesting part of the episode. Generally, my understanding is that Mesoamerican pyramids were not generally used as resting places. The interview with the archaeologist, Dr Ruz, is fascinating.

Next stuff about sacrifice, which is sweet. We talk to Dr Ruz again. He talks about how sacrifices took place at the top of pyramids. Nimoy tells us about the Aztec 'skull rack' which is exactly what it sounds like.

After the talk about the sacrifice, we wonder how such an advanced people could be so into bloodshed, which is… yeah, look… Anyway, we have a quick chat about modern Mayan people, then Nimoy's narration really starts building up just how awe-inspiring Mayan cities must have looked when they were inhabited, and Dr Ruz discusses how the Mayan ruling class deliberately used the pyramids to provoke awe and obedience in their people.

More footage of pyramids… Okay, I may have been wrong earlier when I thought it was going to be about the Mexican/Egyptian pyramid 'connection'. We just go straight into the collapse of the Mayan empire. The narration is beautiful and the footage is nice. I really have no complaints here.

In fact, other than the skipping between topics, the brief talk of Egypt and a bit of patronage, it's not bad. It's not a great documentary about Mesoamerican pyramids, but it's not a bad one for it's era and running time.

Quotes

Nimoy: Pyramids were stairways to heaven – the ultimate in spiritual technology.

Summing up

Travelogue footage: 9/10, Music: 7/10, Nimoyness: 8/10, Skulls: 10/10, Silliness: 2/10. Overall: 36/50. Credit

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We open on a shot of a cross on a hill, presumably swiped from an old biblical movie. We move on to crowds lining up to see the shroud itself. But, surprisingly, we're also introduced to a 'young skeptic' who has a non-miraculous theory on the shroud.

In Search of S04E07 The Shroud of Turin
This is an actual screenshot of this episode, presented without any editing on my part.

There's some quite interesting footage of the carnival atmosphere outside of Turin cathedral. Nimoy compares people buying religious souveneirs to medaeval pilgrims. Then we look at the shroud itself, looming up out of darkness into closeup. Nimoy's beautiful narration carries this part, as the shroud itself is visually kind of unimpressive.

We interview the Rev Francis Philas (sp?) an American Catholic theologian. He talks with great enthusiasm about the shroud, and how it looks so much better in person and from a distance than you do from up close. If true, this explains a lot of the rather unimpressive shots of the shroud. Francis was part of a team that examined the shroud, subjecting it to 'many tests'. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E07 The Shroud of Turin"

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We open on a reenactmentpolooza as a bunch of people dressed Elizabethan-era English colonists do old timey chores. It's the Lost Colony of Roanoke, a genuine historical! Just how did a settlement of woefully underpre

The Lost Colony of Roanoke In Search Of s04e06
The Colony Gets Lost

pared people with little support from their government fail to flourish?

No seriously, it's a mystery. There were so many ways it could have gone wrong, so which one was it? ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E06 The Lost Colony of Roanoke"

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We open on a) music with a driving rhythm and b) frikkin' sharks. Nimoy gives a super buildup to the great white sharks, and sharks don't even need a buildup. It's very cool. The visuals are a little ropey by today's standards, but not bad for its time.

Also: sharks.

In Search Of S04E05 Immortal Sharks
Dun... duh. Dun... duh. Dun duh dun duh dun dun duh dun DUH duh duh duh DUH duh duh duh.

Basically, this episode is a documentary on Sharks, sandwiched between the episode on Australian flying saucers and the episode on the lost colony of Roanoke. A lot of it is shot in Western Australia, making me wonder if the producers were trying to get their money's worth when they sent a crew to Australia for the UFO episode. ...continue reading "In Search Of…S04E04 Immortal Sharks"

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Now this one is just adorable. Basically, the episode investigates the 'true story' that the movie 'The Amityville Horror' was based on and somehow comes up with something even crappier than the film 'The Amityville Horror'.

Leonard Nimoy In Search Of s04e03 The Amityville Horror
And that's in spite of this shot.

We start with Nimoy narrating over a clip from the movie assuring us that this ghost story is real. Then we go talk to the actual people who claimed their house was haunted, George and Cathy Lutz. They talk about how nice the house was, even though it was the setting of a recent multiple homicide.

The re-enactment of the families eating, hanging a crucifix on the wall and having a priest bless the house are beautifully crappy. I tell you, when a show can make re-enactment of mundane tasks look this awkward, it makes me look forward to the more interesting re-enactments. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E03 The Amityville Horror"

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UFOs down under! Let's put a shrimp* on the barbie** and listen to everybody's t'hai'la*** Leonard 'Spocko' Nimoy talk about Antipodean UFOs and mispronounce the word 'Melbourne' ****

In Search Of s04e04 Australian UFOs
A UFO! Run!

We open on a literal white dot on a black screen, which proves UFOs. This is in some way connected to a re-enactment of a pilot in flight. Super spooky music, though. Got to give it that.

And then we get into the episode proper. Nimoy wonders if UFOs have been sighted over Australia and New Zealand. There's some lovely old timey photos of flying saucers, and what looks like some leftover footage of the last In Search Of… UFO episode. But this is just to whet out apitites and kill screen time. Standing in front of a radio telescope, his Season 4 moustache still in the picture. Nimoy tells us that most UFO sightings have been in the southern hemisphere.

News to me. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E04: Australian UFOs"

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