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Dogon artwork from In Search Of S04E13 The Dark Star

We open on African ritual dancers and a driving rhythm of drums. Nimoy informs us that the dance has meaning, which of course is true. It's a dance of religious significance, so Nimoy is correct when he tells us that it depicts the relationship of the dancers to the heavens. However, he claims that that it maps that relationship 'precisely', and straight away I am worried. Next we're looking at something in a cave and being told that this tribe believes it comes from a distant star, and then we're looking at a radio telescope.

I don't know where we're going this episode, but I'm guessing it will be weird, and also at least a little insulting. Sure enough, we're asked how a 'primitive' people found a 'dark star'. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S04E13 The Dark Star"

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*Deep sigh*

Okay. I've been reviewing this show episode by episode for nearly three seasons now, and this is the episode that I just can't deal with. I've dealt with UFOs, Nazis, cryptozoology, pseudoarchaeology, disaster porn, New Age nonsense and endless awful 1970s fashion. I just can't bring myself to care about this one.

Bridging the credibility gap.

The thing about it is, there's nothing fun about Creationism. I'm a skeptic, but have a sneaking fondness for the cryptozoologists and UFOlogists. Hell, I can even enjoy some of the other weird Biblical stuff like the Garden of Eden episode from last season. Maybe it's that this specific weirdness has isn't just a fringe belief, but a central tenant of some very powerful people. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S03E19: Noah’s Ark"

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A blonde guy is patting his dog. Nimoy talks about the connection between people and their pets. Only recently, we're told, have people started to wonder if this connection is psychic. Animal ESP!

A Siamese Fighting Fish, In Search Of S03e15 Animal ESP
The newest member of the X-Men: Siamese Fighting Fish

Footage of a dog in the wilderness. We're told that the animal became separated from his family when they moved, and is trying to get back to them. We see the dog running across fields, crossing roads, climbing mountains and swimming rivers. It's like half the kids' movies I watched when I was five, only compressed into a minute. It is beautiful to behold. ...continue reading "In Search Of S03E15 Animal ESP"

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Cold open on a nuclear explosion. Very well, 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.

Tunguska, Tunguska Tunguska, Ya, Ya

Looking at pictures of stars now. Nimoy talks about satellites so maybe alien space probes? Maybe 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"

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Water seekers. Dowsers. People with the supposed ability to find water with a stick. It's… look, it's uninteresting. Sorry, dowsers. Sorry sceptics. I know you all have something to say on the subject, but I just don't care. Probably that's unfair of me, but… y'know.

Here's a guy playing with his rod, and I can't even think of a joke to go with it.

Anyway, let's see how this works in In Search Of… We know the show can make Bigfoot, alien abductions and shark worship interesting, but those are pretty interesting to start with. How does it do with something really dull? Let's find out. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S03E04: Water Seekers"

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Open on a moustachioed 1970s-alist, who's playing with a film camera. He's investigator Francis Hitchins, and Nimoy tells us he may have recorded the last remnants of a seventeenth century ghost. A wailing noise rises and creepy electronic music plays.

Oh, yeah. This is going to be good. I can feel it. Haunted castles. Leonard Nimoy telling ghost stories! I may not believe in ghosts now. And I may d be willing to bet good money that when this episode has finished, I still won't believe. But you know what? These next twenty minutes are going to be awesome. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E20 Haunted Castles"

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We open on footage of people jogging. How to achieve immortality 1970s style! Love it! Nimoy gives speech about the inevitability of death. "Most of us will live for a billion heartbeats," he says, which is an interesting way of looking at it. He goes on to say that death is less inevitable than it used to be which… look, things are inevitable or they aren't. It's not a sliding scale.

If you don't remember the 1970s, perhaps this will jog your memory.... I'll see myself out.

...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E15 Immortality."

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And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear, You shout but no one seems to hear
And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear,
You shout but no one seems to hear

We start with sirens an police cars. A man in a beige check shirt is patted down and locked up. Some firefighters train, putting out burning cars. What looks like footage of a hospital crash cart recycled from the Life After Death episode.

What does any of this have to do with astrology? Well, Nimoy tells us that police arrests, fire service callouts and hospital emergencies spike on nights of the full moon. It's a myth that's been pretty thoroughly debunked, but then so has astrology in general. To hell with it, I'm going to do a 'research light' review again. I'll just watch and enjoy as a woman with fluffy hair and a grey tank-top tells us about her star sign in excruciating detail. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E05 Astrology"

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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, a la 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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This is a dull movie and kind of pointless, and yet its historical importance is undeniable. The central idea -- taking two successful characters from different franchises and throwing them together -- didn't begin here. But by the same token I think this is where the idea started to appeal to the owners of properties, rather than just to creators. At the same time, similar ideas were being explored in the nascent comic book publishing business, and these days the idea of 'take two characters that you love and make them fight' is a dominant one at the box office.

I'm going to illustrate my point with this picture, because all of the fight scenes are rubbish.
I'm going to illustrate my point with this picture, because all of the fight scenes are rubbish.

In purely Frankensteinian terms, this film represents a big change for the Monster. Teaming him up here with the Wolf Man is just the start. Later, Dracula would be added, and the next thing you know the trio become inseparable in the public mind. There are a lot of iterations of this trio, whether as heroes, villains or comic foils. A lot. And it all starts here. ...continue reading "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman – 1943"

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