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Something something Maya something
Something something Maya something

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"

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Cold open on an erupting volcano, while Nimoy intones a speech about the savage awe of nature. Hell yeah! I don't know where this episode is going to go, but I can't fault the opening.

This episode is about firewalking, but this picture of a hypnotised guy with his hand in a bowl of icewater just makes me laugh.
This episode is about firewalking, but this picture of a hypnotised guy with his hand in a bowl of icewater just makes me laugh.

And then we're into firewalking. "Man knowingly and willingly matches himself against the flames". We're watching several firewalking ceremonies from around the world. Full confession – I actually learned something here. I'd always thought firewalking was specifically a Pacific Islander custom, but Wikipedia tells me that the practice is surprisingly widespread, and the In Search Of… footage reflects that. Nimoy sets out the question this episode will ask: why do people do this? And how? ...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E03: Firewalkers"

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Last week I promised not to do any fact checking on this episode. I have a feeling I'm going to regret that.

Hi, I'm Casanova. No, really, I am.
Hi, I'm Casanova.
No, really, I am.

So, open on a man in a tricorn hat rushing into a coach. Nice. Sets period, gives a sense of urgency. There's a slightly blurry effect on the screen as the coach speeds away. Nimoy tells us that its France, 1760, and 'the wonder man of Europe runs for his life.

(Hmmm… Marvel Wonder Man joke, or Danny Kaye Wonder Man joke? Eh, the Danny Kaye movie is pretty obscure… Then again, Wonder Man isn't exactly a first-string Marvel character either… Eh, skip it.)

Nimoy assures us that this man is a man of mystery, a genius in many subjects including alchemy. Though he looked forty, he may have been much older. Who says so? 'Many', that's who. We're talking about the Count of Saint Germaine, though he was called 'the man who would not die'. Who called him that? 'Others', that's who. What, exactly, is the relationship between 'many' and 'others'? That, no one knows. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E02 The Man Who Would Not Die"

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I'm going to do this week and next week a little differently. This is because the first two episodes of Season 2 look at subjects that I know little to nothing about. I'm going to resist the urge to Google, at least until I've written my reviews, so for the most part I won't be looking at factual inaccuracies or wondering about the credentials of the people being interviewed. I'm just going to watch and enjoy and talk about what I see.

Its...
Its...

We start with footage of the desert. Leonard Nimoy tells us these are the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, and that people go there seeking treasure. There's a lone man wandering in the desert, and a buzzard wheeling in the sky. The man—an old guy with a big white beard—turns out to me re-enacting a scene. Nimoy tells us that in 1860, a miner known as 'the Dutchman' staggered out of the desert. He'd been tortured and his partner had been killed, but he somehow struggled back to town.

Another re-enactor listens for the dying man's heartbeat. The old man drops his bag, and gold nuggets fall out.

All in all, pretty strong opening. ...continue reading "In Search Of…S02E01 The Lost Dutchman Mine"

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Hello again, my tens of readers! Particularly those of you who aren't trying to guess my password or post spam. In other words, 'Hi, Mum!'

So, we've just gotten through an astonishing twenty four weeks of Leonard Nimoy saying strange things. What have we learned? Well, one we've learned that I couldn't even come close to meeting the promise I made in my first post about not calling out the show's factual errors. I tried -- really I did -- but I just couldn't.

I don't even remember which episode this comes from, but it looks incredible
I don't even remember which episode this comes from, but it looks incredible

Before I started writing this series, my favourite way to watch the show was just to sit back, take a drink, and let the glorious nonsense wash over me. Trying to write critical reviews of episodes just makes that impossible. Where once I would have just rolled my eyes or chuckled, now I have to say something. I won't say this makes the show any less fun, but it does change my relationship with it. I can't look at the show's nonsense like an indulgent adult listening to a child blather about nonsense, I have to be more like a stern teacher demanding that it do its research and tuck its shirt in. ...continue reading "In Search Of… Season 1: The Reckoning"

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We open on Stonehenge, silhouetted against the sun. Awesome. Nimoy talks about how people built 'this great machine' then disappeared, leaving their work behind them.

Great cold open, seriously. Almost immediately, we're looking at footage of modern day druids, and Nimoy's talking about a 'strange power' in the place. I'm kind of pleased. After a couple of not-too-factually-awful episodes, I could really use some of the good stuff. We're not just looking at Stonehenge. We're looking at the magic of Stonehenge. Now, is that going to be the main thing we're looking at? Or is it going to be an enticement to see a relatively straightforward documentary, treasure in the Inca Treasure episode.

The Druids invented lens flare?
The Druids invented lens flare?

Nimoy, in the studio, claims that Stonehenge is a 'classic mystery' which I guess it is. He divides the mystery into two questions: who built it and why? Both good questions. Nimoy claims that the 'why' part of the question is 'so simple it was overlooked for centuries'. I feel a little let down, now. It's just going to be that it's a calendar, isn't it? I guess that was a new and exciting idea in the mid-70s, so I can't fault the In Search Of… people for making a big deal about it. Even so, it's a bit of a letdown. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E24: The Magic of Stonehenge"

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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?

There's a lot of good footage in this episode. Majestic mountain ranges, grand Incan fortresses, the fascinating people of Cuzco and archaeologists hard at work. None of these images is quite so awesome as what Leonard Nimoy is wearing in this picture.
There's a lot of good footage in this episode. Majestic mountain ranges, grand Incan fortresses, the fascinating people of Cuzco and archaeologists hard at work. None of these images is quite so awesome as what Leonard Nimoy is wearing in this picture.

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.'

Parse that, if you dare ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E23 Inca Treasures"

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Voodoo. This is the sort of topic that could play well to the strengths of In Search Of, but also to its weaknesses. Let's see how we go.

InSearchOf1.22

We start with a voodoo ceremony. Dancing, chanting, beating drums. Nimoy tells us that "the ceremony mingles the demons of humanity's oldest fears with elements of a young religion" which isn't a bad summary I guess. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S01E22 Voodoo"

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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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