B.G. Hilton – Writer

In Search Of… Season 1: The Reckoning

Hello again, my tens of readers! Particularly those of you who aren’t trying to post spam or guess my password. 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.

What’s more, since I’m watching these at my computer, Google is just a few keystrokes away. This is a luxury the show’s original viewership didn’t have in the 1970s. I can see if a questionable statement is well supported or not in a matter of seconds. Just as importantly, I can immediately check on what the actual qualifications are of people being held up as experts. In Search Of… seems to fudge both of those things.

The show, as I’ve said before, is a very strange mix. Some episodes are mildly sensationalised but mostly factual, some contain a stronger mix of reality and bullshit, and some are simply off the wall nonsense.

Personally, my favourites are the sighting episodes. Loch Ness, UFOs, Bigfoot, that sort of thing. I like them specifically because they’re difficult to challenge from my armchair. Some of the pseudoarchaeology episodes, for example, depend on a chain of logic so tenuous that a non-archaeologist like myself can take them apart just with Wikipedia and common sense. With the sightings, there’s no chain of logic. Someone says Bigfoot is real because they saw Bigfoot… Well, I don’t think they did, but there’s no way I can prove that. This makes the sighting episodes unsettling in a way that the other episodes aren’t.

But that’s all looking at the show as an argument. Let’s look at it as a work of art. There’s some very nice camerawork. There aren’t many episodes that don’t have at least a few cool visuals. There’s always something interesting about shows made on a budget that is too small for it. It forces a degree of creativity on the people involved. The camerawork in In Search Of… is such a great example of this, always trying to do more with less. They may not be able to capture Stonehenge in HD like modern documentaries can, but they can get sunrise through the some monoliths with some awesome lensflare happening and it looks awesome.

The music has some of the same elements as the camerawork. Cheaply made electronic music. I don’t even know how they made electronic music in the ’70s. In the ’60s, it was this ridiculous process involving splicing magnetic tapes together, and in the ’80s it was synthesizers. I’m guessing the ’70s was some sort of transitional thing, like synthesizers, but enormous synthesizers fueled by powdered mood rings or something. Anyway, the music is intrusive and spooky, just the way it should be.

And Nimoy. What can I say that I haven’t already? Inspired casting choice. A man with a proven background in saying nonsensical things with the straightest face known to humanity. The guy is awesome. I almost feel bad about reminding everyone about this:

Yeah. Sorry, Leonard.

Anyway, next week I’ll be beginning the process of putting myself through it all again for Season Two, beginning with The Lost Dutchman Mine. Should be fun. Please feel free to leave a non-spammy comment, just so I know I’m not alone in my love/hate for this awesome old show.

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