Nebulae! Our voices ascending to the heavens! We're awaiting a reply.... And I'm a little bored already. I'm not a SETI enthusiast. Honestly, I'd prefer some nice juicy account of a UFO abduction to footage of radio telescopes, even if that is where the call from space will arrive.
But then, out of the blue, we're talking about communicating with dolphins and suddenly I'm awake again. Nimoy tells us if we can communicate with one 'strange intelligence' that may give us the tools to talk to others. Interesting...
But then we're back to nebulae, portentous talk about the possibilities of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and footage of, you guessed it! Radio telescopes. Nimoy gives a narration about the importance of radio telescopy, and damn but does he hit it out of the park. I'm starting to think that maybe there's something to my theory that he just likes the space stuff better than the pseudoarchaeology. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E12 A Call From Space"
We open on a man handling a ring. Nimoy tells us that the man claims that he can visualise scenes related to the ring. There's stock footage of police cars and then back to the man with the ring. We're told he's Peter Hurkos and that he has 'hard information'. Names, places, dates. "He calls himself a psychic detective," Nimoy intones. A big claim, from Mr Hurkos -- yet one that this episode seems to have little interest in investigating.
We go on to see Chief Detective Lowry, a 1970's cop in St Louis. We're assured that he solves crimes by conventional means. That is, until a kidnapping case in the mid '70s, where he couldn't find the victim. At the request of the victim's family, Lowry called in a psychic, who located the kidnapping victim. Fascinating, if true. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E11 Psychic Detectives"
Cold open on Easter Island, many, many miles from the Atlantic. Nimoy proclaims the famous statues a mystery, which they were. I mean, I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that they were still a big mystery in the 1970s, though these days we've got a decent idea of how and when they were made. But that's not what gets me. What gets me is the In Search Of… three step. 1: Identify something as unexplained. 2: Assume that 'unexplained' is 'inexplicable'. 3: Explain it anyway. It's not good science, but damn it's fun to watch!
Now Maya (or maybe Olmec, I'm no expert) statue heads, stand a distance from where they were carved. See the connection yet? No? Me neither. Macchu Piccu and Californian petroglyphs, the Cerne giant (I think) and some other big statues. These indicate advanced technology, Nimoy says, which I guess is true for certain values of 'advanced'.
Now, remember a few weeks ago when anything that might have been tricky for old-timey people to accomplish was actually the work of aliens? Turns out it was actually the work of Atlanteans. I know, right? Wild. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E10 Atlantis"
"His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful." -- Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
"You loved your Creature so long as it was pretty, but when it lost its looks, huh? That was another matter." – Dr Polidori, Frankenstein: the True Story
After the events of Part One, the Creature (Michael Sarrazin) has survived his plunge into the English Channel. Dragging himself ashore, he hides out in the home of a blind man (Ralph Richardson). He befriends to the man, and falls in love with his daughter (Jane Seymour). Alas, he scares her out of the house and she is fatally run over by a coach. ...continue reading "Frankenstein: the True Story Part Two – 1973"
Ahem. I'm sorry, let's start again. We open with a rather uninspired monologue about seeking life in the stars, but combined with the music and some lovely astronomical footage it becomes quite interesting. It's easy to be mean about In Search Of's visuals sometimes, but I like this old timey footage of stars and planets. CGI has made contemporary documentary makers lazy. Shots of space all look like bloody video games.
Now a lovely tone poem about the birth of the sun. Roughly correct science, surprisingly suitable electronic music and Nimoy's voice. I'm loving this so far, and we haven't even got to the Martians. Nimoy's voice acting is different here to usual. Often, he's doing this sort of 'voice of authority' thing, intoning nonsense to make it seem reasonable. Here, he sounds more like he's trying to convince. I wish I knew more about Nimoy the man, because I find myself wondering how much he felt he had a personal stake in this discussion of space research and exploration. After all, like it or not, he was deeply entangled in public perception of space science, even though his contribution to this field went no further than playing Spock. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E09 Martians"
"My journey had been my own suggestion, and Elizabeth therefore acquiesced, but she was filled with disquiet at the idea of my suffering, away from her, the inroads of misery and grief. It had been her care which provided me a companion in Clerval—and yet a man is blind to a thousand minute circumstances which call forth a woman's sedulous attention." – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.
"Victor, you and I are almost strangers. But I can read your heart. I know we can work together! As you so, I'm subject to these wretched weaknesses. I'm helpless without your strength." -- Henry Clerval, Frankenstein: the True Story.
Way back in the early 1980s, my grandmother was looking after me one evening. I can't quite remember why – I think my Mum might have been unwell, but I'm not sure. But my Nan, who could be gloriously irresponsible when she wanted to, let me stay up to watch what she was watching: Frankenstein: The True Story. It wasn't really suitable for a small child, but I thank her anyway. ...continue reading "Frankenstein: the True Story 1973"
Now we're talking! Fakey-Egyptian music, check! White women in diaphanous nighties, check! "Legend says…" check. "Coincidence… or curse?" Check, check, check! All right, now we're cooking with gas! Mummy's curse FTW!
Another mundane episode, it seems, but it begins with the strongest opening we've seen so far. It's black and white amateur footage of an earthquake in Alaska in 1964. Since it was taken by sailors on a freighter, it’s much steadier than similar footage would be if taken from land. It begins with something utterly mundane – two dogs sitting on the shore, the sort of dull thing that home movie enthusiasts used to love. The all at once, the sea goes crazy and there's huge waves everywhere… it's pretty cool, and it sets the topic and tone wonderfully.
This use of file footage is one of the most effective aspects of this episode. No longer having to rely on crappy reenactments and lingering shots of rocks, the producers can show drama directly, rather than having to imply it. Unfortunately, the footage they show is a mix of actual news footage and clips of simulated earthquakes from old movies, though to be fair Nimoy does acknowledge this. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E07 Earthquakes"
The Bermuda Triangle is one of my favourite mysteries. Why? It's super easy to solve! The solution is: there's nothing spooky about the Bermuda Triangle at all. It's a huge area of sea on a number of important international trade routes. Ships and planes get lost there, but not disproportionately to the amount of traffic the area gets. No problem, no mystery, no solution required.
Ancient Aviators is a little more fun than the last one. It is also the most fact-free, supposition heavy episode so far. Did humanity invent flight earlier than we believe? the episode asks. Well, if we did, this episode doesn't do much to prove it.
We begin with the Nazca Plains, and Nimoy waxing lyrical about the Nazca Lines -- a series of line-figures on the desert floor. Now, these lines are really interesting, showing an extraordinary ambition and artistry of the people who drew them, but we're not really interested in that. We're told that the lines of which these figures are comprised look like runways and that therefore we can assume that something landed there. ...continue reading "In Search Of… Review: S1E3 Ancient Aviators"