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We open with a helicopter tracking shot of American countryside, and Leonard Nimoy delivers his best oration yet:

"They've been reported in dusk or at the dead of night. In clearings, amidst still woods and fields and lonely farm country. Sometimes they come in silence, sometimes with quiet thunder. Often, they leave marks in the earth, signals of their passing. They've been seen but fleetingly, and their extraordinary presence creates a frightening mystery."

I don't believe in flying saucers for a second and that sent a shiver down my spine. If you're a believer, that's gotta be super awesome.

Science!
Science!

In the studio, Nimoy tells us about Kenneth Arnold's famous UFO sighting in 1947, from which the term 'flying sauce' originates. As Nimoy says, the Arnold's 'saucer' analogy referred to the way the UFOs moved – like thrown saucers skipping over water – rather than to the shape of the things. The fact that many future sightings were described as saucer shaped is interesting. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E21 UFOs"

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We open on a ruined castle before the Loch, and an electronic attempt to approximate bagpipe music. Oh, yeah! Drink it in, this is the good stuff. Nimoy gives a beautiful narration over artsy close-up shots of the loch's surface. There's a particularly nice touch when we see what looks like the Monster's reflection in the water, but as the ripples clear we see that it's a swan. So good!

Loch? Discovered. Ness? Discovered. Monster? We'll get back to you,
Loch? Discovered. Ness? Discovered. Monster? We'll get back to you,

In the studio, Nimoy makes an entrance from behind a picture of a Mayan pyramid and introduces himself. I get the feeling that this was meant to be the first episode? He tells us that there were hundreds of sightings of Nessie over hundreds of years, which is a bit of a stretch. He then tells us that recently we have seen compelling evidence. Well, we'll see about that, no doubt. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E20 The Loch Ness Monster"

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Life after death -- we open in a hospital ward, with a 'code blue' in progress. People in white uniforms running about in that wonderful sort of disciplined panic you see with trained emergency people. Leonard Nimoy's narration adds a suitable note of urgency to the proceedings. It's a good, solid opening but I have a sinking feeling about where it's going.

The light at the end of the tunnel?
The light at the end of the tunnel?

Sure enough, Nimoy tells us that people who have been resuscitated sometimes come back with stories 'about what it is like on the other side.' My fears come true. We're looking at near death experiences (NDEs). ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E19 Life After Death"

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We open on an open window at night-time, curtains moving with the breeze, an owl hooting, and Leonard Nimoy talking about ghosts. Yeah! Drink it in! This is what I watch this show for! 'Aliens built the pyramids'? That ok. But Leonard Nimoy telling ghost stories? That's just awesome.

I hope you enjoy this image, because it's a solid third of the episode.
I hope you enjoy this image, because it's a solid third of the episode.

But it doesn't last long. After the campfire story opening, we're back to the studio where Nimoy is explaining that there are scientific rules to ghostly behaviour. I'd say 'ho hum', but when the scientific theory being pitched is that 'a ghost might be thought of as the spirit of someone who died in emotional turmoil' then… well, all I can say is, that's some science right there. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E18 Ghosts"

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Easter Island Massacre

InSearchOf1.17

Waves crash on a rocky shore, and Nimoy is telling us about a mysterious massacre. And we're looking at the moai of Rapa Nui, aka the stone heads of Easter Island. And they look pretty damn cool. They look like a bunch of ancient people thought to themselves 'what's the most awesome sort of thing we can make?' and got the answer perfectly right. With their sheer massive size and their features, somehow both impassive and expressive, the moai are made out of awesome. And compressed volcanic ash, but mostly awesome. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E17 Easter Island Massacre"

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'So this is where Dracula was buried?' 'Yup.' 'The actual, literal, tomb of Dracula?' 'Yup.' 'So the vampire brides...' 'Give it up, dude.'
'So this is where Dracula was buried?'
'Yup.'
'The actual, literal, tomb of Dracula?'
'Yup.'
'So the vampire brides...'
'Give it up, dude.'

Near Innsbruck, Nimoy tells us, there is a monument to perversity. And we're off to a flying start! A monument to perversity! I wonder what's written on the brass plaque on front? Something saucy, perhaps? But no, we're talking about Castle Ambras in Austria, which contains a collection of portraits of people who were wounded or deformed, and also a portrait of… Vlad Dracula.

...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E16 Dracula"

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Amelia Earhart

We start with a nice, matter-of-fact opening. The who-what-where or Amelia Earhart's final flight. Good, basic journalism, over newsreel images of Earhart, 1930s planes, and the ocean. Solid intro. It's going to get silly after this, isn't it?

It is, mostly thanks to this guy.
It is, mostly thanks to this guy.

Next up is newsreel footage of Earhart's triumphant return to New York after her solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1932. A tickertape parade, how nice! Nimoy shushes while Earhart gives a speech from behind a battery of old-timey radio microphones.

"It is much easier to fly the Atlantic Ocean now, than it was a few years ago," she says. "I expect to be able to do it in my lifetime again. Possibly not as a solo expedition, but in regular trans-Atlantic service, which is inevitable in my lifetime." ...continue reading "In Search Off… S01E15 Amelia Earhart"

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Nazi Plunder

It's got Nazis, it's got plunder, it's got treasure hunting. Could be good? Let's find out.

Look, Mein Fuhrer, Waldo is right over... Wait. It's not him. False alarm.
Look, Mein Fuhrer, Waldo is right over... Wait. It's not him. False alarm.

We open on a few minutes of WWII archive footage. WWII. It's nice footage and beautifully narrated, but the TLDR of it is that the Nazis lost the war but didn't have the good manners to put back the stuff they pinched. Then to the studio, where Nimoy talks with righteous relish of the decline of the Third Reich. He explains how senior Nazis like Martin Borman took off with stolen gold and artwork. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E14 Nazi Plunder"

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"Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil!" - Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.

"I can't help it. It's the way I'm made." – Herman Munster, The Munsters.

Cue surf guitar.
Cue surf guitar.

In the generation after World War II, suburban life got to be the big thing in America. That's not just a physical or an economic statement, though it is. Vast new swathes of housing were being built for a new, prosperous class. Rising wages meant the average family could afford a bigger home, and the rise of the automobile meant people could live further from their workplaces.

But as I say, this wasn't just an economic thing, it was a social thing. As more people lived in suburbia, suburbia got to be the place where stories were set. This is particularly true with regard to TV. Upwardly mobile, white suburban dwellers had to own their TVs, and so TVs had to tell stories about white suburban dwellers. Sure, you could still find Lucy in her New York flat, or the stock bumpkins of Petticoat Junction, but mostly it was the comfortable suburban existence of the Cleevers, the Andersons and the Douglasses. And of course, the monsters. ...continue reading "The Munsters are Due on Maple Street"

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Teaching ESP

It's a logical day in the neighbourhood...
It's a logical day in the neighborhood...

We open with Apollo astronauts on the Moon, because of course we do. We're told that the lunar astronauts experienced unusual perceptions during their journeys, and that astronaut Edgar Mitchel tried to send telepathic images from the Moon to the Earth in 1971. We are told that the chance of his results being accidental are quite low.

Cut to Nimoy at a table with a bunch of kids using Zenner cards, for testing telepathic powers. All of a sudden, I find myself switching from scepticism to jealousy. Why didn't I get to play 'psychic guess the card' with Nimoy? I'm not much younger than the kids in the story would have been.

Then it hits me: Nimoy has broken the fourth wall. In a documentary. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E13 Teaching ESP"

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