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.
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?
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"
It's got Nazis, it's got plunder, it's got treasure hunting. Could be good? Let's find out.
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"
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"
Nebulae! Our voices have ascended to the heavens. We're awaiting a reply. 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.
It wasn't going to last long. 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-- and 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 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? 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 doing of aliens? Turns out it was actually the doing of Atlanteans. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E10 Atlantis"
Martians! Squeeee! Maaaartiaaaaans!
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 Spock. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E09 Martians"
The Mummy's Curse
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 what seems like 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 taken from land would be. 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"