We open on a shot of an icy coastline. We hear low, eerie music and also some sort of musical chanting in a strange language. It's as beautiful an opening as this show has ever produced, as Leonard Nimoy starts telling the story of the Vinland Saga – aka the Lost Vikings.
The Vinland Saga is an interesting story because it's one of the rare instances where the crazy theory actually has considerable support. Basically, some Viking Sagas were interpreted as possibly meaning that Vikings crossed the Atlantic hundreds of years before Columbus. Beginning in the 1960s, archaeological evidence started piling up supporting this interpretation. In the immortal words of Philip J Fry, "Crazy theories: 1. Regular theories: 1 000 000!"
There's a tradition we have every few years where everyone takes a look at the highest profile performers in the UK and wonders which of them will be the new Dr Who. This is immediately followed by the BBC picking someone that is not one of the highest profile performers in the UK for the role.
But hey, it works. Take 1974. Tom Baker? The guy
who was the baddy in that one Ray Harryhausen film? Seriously?
I bring this up because my reaction on seeing Jodie Whittaker's name was, who? The protagonist from Attack the Block who isn't Finn? Really?
Usually I go through these episodes blow-by-blow, but this time I won't because a) I'm kind of busy this week and b) this one won't really stand up to that kind of scrutiny.
That's not to say it's not a fun episode, it is. It's basically a little documentary on Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There are a few factual errors, but I'm not enough of a Sherlockian to get upset about that. The In Search Of… ethos adds the interesting twist in that instead of just saying, 'this is a show about Sherlock Holmes' they say 'who was Sherlock Holmes?'
We open on a bunch of Native Americans. Okay, didn't see that coming. I thought 'Indian Astronomy' as in 'Astronomy from India'. My bad. I don't know if these are Native Americans or 'Native Americans' but they do a dance in some long grass. Nimoy tells us that they're here to watch the sky, which is odd given that it's broad daylight and it's overcast. One of the 'Native' men is identified as a Priest of the Sun. A native woman goes down on her knees. The 'priest' produces a knife…
I am so looking this up.
And then we're looking at Native American mounds, ad break.
We're back. Reenactment time! A guy in animal skins is starting a fire with a flint. Nimoy tells us that we're in Southern Illinois. The reenactor walks out of a hut, plants maize and hunts with a bow while the narration talks up the connection of the people to nature and the universe. Native American documentary boilerplate, basically. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S03E11 Indian Astronomers"
I'll get to the episode in a moment, but first I want to look at the title: Bermuda Tringle Pirates. I use no hyperbole whatsoever when I say that this title is literally the best thing ever. It is the capstone of human civilization. If, as some argue, our society is in decline, I blame it purely on the makers of In Search Of for using up all so much of our awesomeness reserves to make this title.
Open on footage of the US Coast Guard boarding a civilian vessel. There's no music as they go aboard, just claustrophobic footage men with guns and lifejackets making their way through the cramped corridors. A table is laden with uneaten food, and cockroaches can be seen scurrying about. The penny drops that this is a ghost ship before Nimoy says the word.
Cold open on Bigfoot. You heard me. Clear, unambiguous footage of three sasquatches walking along, while Nimoy gives us time, date and place. He then says that they're just guys in suits, but still – bold opening. Nimoy assures us that these figures are exact duplicates of real sasquatches, but the wasp waist on what I assume is the female sasquatch seems a little out of place.
This episode is looking at the people who spend their time out in the woods, looking for Sasquatch. That's pretty familiar ground for supernaturally themed shows nowadays, but I think it was a fairly fresh topic when this was first broadcast.
Now we're at… Loch Ness. Is this the third or forth time We've heard the In Search Of Sonata for Electronic Pseudo-Bagpipes? I've lost count. Anyway, Nimoy talks about the Loch Ness Monster. Again. Same footage as last times. Oh god, the music's even worse this time. The narration then blatantly misrepresents the Loch Ness Monster episode and claims that In Search Of took the 'most authenticated' photo of Nessie ever. Cut to Surgeon's Photo.
Leonard Nimoy sounds a lot less enthusiastic than usual this episode, as he explains that statistically the most dangerous body of water in the word is the Great Lakes of North America. It's not hard to understand why. The Great Lakes area is a massive in the storm-prone centre of North America its waterways are massively multi-use, carrying everything from international cargo to city ferries to pleasure boats. The area is also between two of the wealthiest countries in the world – USA and Canada – both of which massive sea rescue facilities with excellent record keeping, ensuring that their sea rescue stats are up to date and accurate.
Cold open on a nuclear explosion. Okay, In Search Of. You have my attention.
Nimoy says that, sure nuclear tests were big in the '50s, but there may have been a nuclear explosion in 1908. We're talking Tunguska, baby! The 'Tunguska Blast' was a real event, an anomalous explosion in depths of Siberia. It's as interesting as hell, but there's that word: anomalous. 'Anomalous' is to fringe thinkers is like a red rag is to a bull.
Looking at pictures of stars now. Nimoy talks about satellites so maybe alien space probes? Maye Tunguska was caused by the V'Ger? Close up on map of Siberia 'a land Nature has forsaken'. It looks pretty barren. There's some Soviet era black and white footage of Siberian peasants and music that's meant to sound like a balalaika. Nimoy gives the usual patronising speech people get if they aren't living in First World conditions. Simple people, ancient traditions, blah blah. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S03E07 Siberian Fireball"
It's an episode on cryonics -- an idea so terrible I can't even be bothered debunking it. Just google 'debunking cryonics' or 'cryogenics = crap' or something. Anyway, we start with a bunch of technicians freezing an embryo, which is a little cool and mad sciencey, but not by enough. Nimoy is in top form, though, talking about how the internal processes of the embryo cease at low temperatures and how that might help to preserve life forever.
After the break, we're looking at ice – cold winds over a snow field, a car driving on a snowy street, people walking in a blizzard. Nimoy intones a little sermon about cold being the cruellest enemy of man. He talks about the medical implications of freezing, and we see some file footage of doctors treating frostbite. Now we're looking at the cold weather gear of Alaskan oil workers.
Jack the Ripper. *Deep sigh.* Okay, let's do this.
Silhouette of a man on a brick wall. A woman a red dress that looks kind of Victoriany in the dark and from the back walks along. Still, the electronic music is suitably dramatic and Nimoy gives a lovely delivery to his cliché driven oration. "The files of Scotland Yard" indeed.
The woman tries to hurry away from the approaching camera but then stops and turns. Oh great, we were doing first person from the murderer. I was fine when the camera was playing first person with Bigfoot, but the Ripper? Anyway, we see a heavily disguised and shadowed man approach the woman, who screams. Cut to black.
Pan across London at twilight. Now this is interesting. In the 1970s, if you filmed in low light what you'd see was not too obviously unlike 1880s London. Nimoy waxes lyrical about the wealth and power of the British Empire, comparing that to the poverty and squalor of the East End.
Trouble is, when they film some extras playing Victorian Eastenders, they and their surroundings are so clean. There's some trash ostentatiously spread on the ground in one shot, but this only emphasises the lack of muddy rat-filled streets and sooty, poster-encrusted walls. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S03E05 Jack the Ripper"