When I first decided to review these shows, I began rewatching them for the first time in years. I remembered some of the themes – cryptozoology, disaster porn, missing person, sensationalised anthropology. But I completely forgot the whole Biblical archaeology theme that runs through the show. Why? Well for a start, it's boring. Like, massively, massively boring. Even the dull ghost stories are better than this.
Lloyd Bridges as Professor X? Sadly not. In this episode, we are to witness ' the world's first experiment in underwater psychic archaeology,' off the coast of Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California. Sounds goofy. Let's go!
We see some very pretty underwater photography of divers and sunken wrecks, while Nimoy talks about how difficult underwater archaeology. Standing in front of undersea exploration equipment, he explains that even with all this equipment it's still hard to find stuff on the sea floor. But if psychics could find stuff, well then, that would be peachy.
We go now to the Institute for Marine and Coastal Studies at Catalina, where we see a bunch of people get on a boat. Basically, a bunch of scientists and psychics got together to form the Moebius Group, in order to do a psychic sea hunt.
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!"
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"
A woman in a white robe walks on the beach while Nimoy narrates the basics of the Illiad. Helen, stolen away, the Greek army comes after, besieges Troy, wooden horse. True story or not?
Interesting question. There's an archaeological site in Turkey that is called 'Troy', and which matches some elements of the Homeric description of Troy in terms of location, size and shape. Is that enough to say that the Iliad is a true story? Is it even enough to claim that it is based on a real story? Let's watch.
Majestic shot of Ionian mountains, mellow electronic music. Nimoy tells us that 'relatively few Westerners to Turkey, these days." What? Seriously? Okay, if this is the level of scholarship we're looking at here, perhaps we won't get a satisfactory answer to our question. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E8: Troy"
Opening shot of the Dead Sea. We're told it's the lowest spot on the face of the Earth. Honestly don't care enough to look that up. Google it if you want. It's also very salty. Neither of those two facts are relevant, anyway.
Or at least I don't think they are. I have to admit, I don't know much about the Dead Sea Scrolls. I'm just going to watch and maybe fact-check at the end.
Sand dunes and electronic music meant to sound like woodwinds. Nimoy says that 'it seems impossible that an empty desert could hide one of the world's greatest secrets.'
Does it? Honestly, 'empty desert' seems like a good place to hide something.
Anyway, we start looking at the Pyramids, from that very specific angle that filmmakers have to use to disguise the fact that they're not in the 'empty desert', they're in the suburbs of Cairo. Nimoy wonders if the Pyramids are tombs, beacons for alien beings or energy generators. If they were tombs, he asks, why aren't there mummies in them?
So… not going for the 'tombs' theory, Leonard?
Footage of temples and sarcophagi. Some stuff about Egyptian and forces that they believed controlled their lives… There's not much point summarising this bit, it's basically just mush. We're talking about how the Egyptians wanted to defeat time and death. 'Is it possible that they succeeded?' ...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E09 Pyramid Mysteries"
We open on a Mayan guy carrying a pack through the jungle. After last season's relatively sensible episode on the Inca, I didn't want to jump to conclusions about this episode. Buuut… While we’re watching Mayan people, Nimoy explains that their hearts are unusually slow, their teeth don't decay and their cranial cavities are weird shapes.
What the hell, Nimoy?
They are the descendants of a vanished people. Well, no. Mayan civilization vanished, the Mayan people didn't. If they did, they wouldn't have left any descendants. Duh. Nimoy asks where they came from and why their civilization flourished and then disappeared. The answer to the second one is easy: because that's what civilizations do, it's just a question of timescale. I anticipate serious silliness when it comes to answering the second question. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E04 Mayan Mysteries"
We begin with lovely footage of the Andes, which as you know are covered by the gloveys. Sorry, that was awful. Coffee hasn't kicked in yet. Anyway, Nimoy tells us that 'it is believed' that there is treasure there, the lost treasure of the Incas. He tells us that 'white men' called the Incan Empire 'El Dorado' which is… Look, it's just wrong, okay?
We intercut pictures of the mountains and golden Incan artifacts. There's a beautiful, if slightly confusing, prose-poem about searching for treasure, and then we see some Peruvian guys hacking their way through the forest. We're told that the In Search Of… cameras have come closer than anyone to the 'heart of the mystery of the great Inca treasure.'
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"