We open on Maurice Chatelain, a bespectacled white-haired gentleman who is introduced as a former NASA scientist who, we are told is certain that aliens have landed on Earth. Next, we are shown a cool montage of Native American cave art intercut with somewhat similar looking oscilloscope readings.
“Is it possible,” Nimoy asks, “that our planet was an early destination for Earth visitors?”
Um… Okay… That’s a really tortured construction.
Look, our planet is Earth, so if there are such things as ‘Earth visitors’ then this is by definition their destination. Just say ‘have aliens been to Earth’, Leonard. Much easier.
Death Valley. Now we’re talking. Talk about how harsh it is, creepy music, shots of the pitiless sun. Nice! We’re looking specifically at feral donkeys living in Death Valley. I never knew there were feral donkeys in Death Valley. Big shout out to the Death Valley Donkeys! Anyhoo, Nimoy observes that these donkeys are the descendants of donkeys abandoned by miners, and wonders if there’s a parallel between these donkeys left behind by miners and humanity. Possibly left behind by aliens! And before you can even say ‘what the—’ we’re looking at a fossil shellfish from Utah which was discovered in ‘what appear to be shoe prints.’
“Could these shoe prints have been left behind by Earth Visitors?”
But before we can answer, we’re back to Maurice Chatelain again. We’re told that he’s a ‘former NASA space scientist who helped man reach the moon’ and author of ‘Our Ancestors Came from Outer Space’. This is the third most 1970s career path imaginable, after ‘disco astrologer’ and ‘bell-bottom technician/coke dealer’. Chatelain basically just tosses off some cut-rate von Danikenism, claiming that homo sapiens are the result of alien genetic experiments. He doesn’t seem interesting, until we get to his claim that you can connect 12 ancient Greek temples into a perfect Maltese cross, 300 miles wide.
There follows some footage of Greek temples and an interview with a computer statistician, who claims that the odds of such a large Maltese cross forming accidentally are ridiculously low. I remember seeing this episode as a kid, and even back when I was a lot more open to this nonsense, wondering ‘yes, but why a Maltese cross?’ I still don’t know, and the show is too busy making a big deal of the unlikelihood of a huge Maltese cross to explain the significance of said Maltese cross.
In fact, we’re moving on. Yes, to the Pyramids. Duh. Passages in Pyramids supposedly have a stellar alignment so… so you know… stars, aliens. You see the connection?
Now we’re looking at a map of France and joining three stone age temples. Which three? Well the three that when you join them up, they form a triangle proportionate to the Pyramid of Cheops. Duh. Again, the significance of this unclear, but supposedly there are clusters of uranium mines along the sides of this Triangle. This leads Nimoy to wonder if France was the site of an extra-terrestrial mining operation and leads me to wonder ‘but why the Pyramid of Cheops?’
The bleeping electronic music intended to indicate ‘computer operations’ is pretty cool though. Very creepy.
But anyway, Chatelain says that the ‘French Triangle’ is actually a landing pattern, not a uranium locator so that’s good to know. Also, one of the lines supposedly can be extended to the Nasca Plain. Which is also good to know.
Seriously, the world is a very crowded place, and arbitrary lines laid across its surface will all eventually lead somewhere interesting. But not to people like Chatelain, who I guess see the Earth as something akin to a giant Rorschach blot.
But we’re on to the Nasca Plains. We’re 8 minutes into this episode. As I’ve said before, this show has two speeds – glacial or breakneck. This is one of the latter.
Looking at the Nasca Plains with their famous Nasca Lines. Aerial shots of the lines, while Nimoy tells us that the lines don’t look like landing sites – exactly the opposite of the show’s position back in the Ancient Aviators episode. But he goes on to tell us that ‘Earth Base One’ is in the Western Hemisphere… No, Earth Base One was not mentioned before. In a beautiful piece of In Search Of… argumentation, we’ve established its presence simply by denying that it is Nasca.
We’re now looking as what seems like reused footage of Native Americans dancing around a campfire, while Nimoy patronises their culture. Some talk about Native American ancestors crossing the Bering Straight, with a lot of ‘supposed tos’ thrown in. But! A skull has been found in California 48000 years old! From this we can see that people have been in North America for ‘a quarter of a million years,’ because huh?
Brief shot of a scientist-looking guy examining some bones, but we don’t talk to him because we’re back with the Native Americans. An elder tells a story to two children in his own language. Shot of Monument Valley, yes, yes. Nimoy tells us that Native American mythology talks of a ‘land of mist’. Shots of the planet Venus, a planet ‘recorded in the legends of many different people.’
Uh… Yes, but you see…
Moving on! Nimoy says that the spirits moved from the ‘misty world’ to the ‘blue world’ and because Native Americans didn’t have satellite photography how could they have known that the Earth is blue? Yes but… Oh now we’re claiming that the Egyptian god Amon-Ra is also the god of the Apaches. And a boat of the sun… spaceship? Hopi symbols similar to Mediterranean symbols…
Now Elephant Slab! A slab of rock with some weird symbols, including a picture of an elephant. Hopi spirit-dolls look like spacemen! Zuni ceremonial masks look like space helmets! And their carved gourds look like UFOs!
Honestly, there isn’t really an argument here. Just a bunch of ‘squint and this thing looks kind of like something else, I guess, in a way.’
Boomerangs! The Native Americans (or possibly ‘Native Americans’) doing the re-enactment of ‘boomerangs’ is hilarious. Complex airfoil, must have been spacemen, got it.
Nimoy tells us the Native Americans left no written records, but something just as good – ‘what we call their art’. We call it that because it is art? I thought? We see a reenactor in a bad wig pretending to make petroglyphs, then we’re told that since some Native American art consists of realistic depictions of real world objects then it all does. No abstract patterns or designs, no, not at all. So some rough squiggles that look a little like something you might possibly see on the cover of Astounding Science Fiction? Realistic depictions of UFOs. QED!
Take this picture for example. Looks a little like a flying saucer. Or, it could be the entrance to a dwelling. Or a map. Or a hoop over a fire or an abstract figure that the artist found pleasing, or it could be a carving that someone started but never finished so we don’t know what it is.
Or it could be George Jetson’s car, I don’t know.
Images like this flash past one after another with creepy electronic music playing. I picked this one because it looks most like something you’d see on the cover of a UFO magazine. Many of them show less clear images, and some show what look to be gods or spirits. But in In Search Of… land, ‘gods’ and ‘aliens’ are synonymous terms, I guess.
“And from all over the Western United States, strange figures that bear uncanny resemblances to spacemen.”
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT? WHAT DOES A SPACEMAN LOOK LIKE! HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A PICTURE RESEMBLES SOMETHING YOU’VE NEVER SEEN? AAAAAAA!
But the creepy music is pretty sweet. Got to give it that.
Next up, talking to someone introduced as a member of a secretive Hopi society. Rather surprisingly, basically says that aliens are real and that the Hopi know about them, but he can’t say anymore because his religion forbids it.
Honestly wasn’t expecting that.
Anyway, now we’re looking at some rock art showing zig-zaggy lines. It’s pretty cool, there’s a huge variety of different zigzags showing many different patterns. They’re very pretty, and show the work of a people of deep intelligence who are experimenting with different recurring mathematical patterns in their artwork and oh who am I kidding its aliens again.
The sciency looking guy we briefly saw earlier — an engineer called Charles Ruggles – claims that these zig-zaggy patterns look like depictions of different wave types you might see in a physics textbook. He talks a bit about Native folklore that supposedly talks about two objects colliding over Death Valley. It’s really not clear where what he’s heard about this story ends and his own wild extrapolation begins. It starts with the reasonably folkloric part about to objects colliding, but then he’s talking about aliens repairing downed craft, and I’d love to hear specifically what the original story says to make him think this. Anyway, the Natives saw the oscilloscopes that the aliens were using and the wiggly lines on them became ‘symbols of the gods.’
But aliens, huh? They can pilot their crafts across the infinite void of space, then crash as soon as they get here. Do they pick up stupid-rays from Earth, or something?
Now reenactors as ‘rockhounds’ searching for interesting mineral samples in a Southwestern desert mountain range. Creepy music as they find a geode that ‘somehow seemed different.’ They go back to their lab (which all hobbyists have) they look confused as they find a ceramic object ‘like a sparkplug’ inside the geode.
Nimoy tells us that the findings have ‘never been verified.’ But they claim that the object is five hundred thousand years old. ‘No one today can explain its existence,’ Nimoy said. But I reckon I could give it a go.
Now we go to the summing up. Zoom out of a picture of a nebula while Nimoy says that experts would ridicule the idea that life came to Earth from another planet were it not for ‘disclosures such as these, which continue to be found year after year.’ There follows a brief montage of some of the ‘evidence’ we’ve seen this episode.
Basically, this is a well-made episode, with some excellent use of music and montage. It has a lot of stuff in it. A lot. Its central argument uses a technique often referred to as a ‘Gish gallop’, in which ideas are thrown out in very rapid succession, leaving the listener no time to digest one before moving onto the next. In writing this review, I used something that the producers weren’t banking on — the pause button.
The second stream of their argument is in priming the viewer to see spaceships/spacemen in rock art. Honestly, very few of these images suggest extraterrestrials if you’re not primed to see them. Ceremonial masks look like ceremonial masks, not like aliens. Very little of the Native art looks like something science-fictiony except that ‘UFO’ picture earlier and a human figure with two lines coming out of its head like antennae – My Favourite Martian to go with The Jetsons.
And then there’s the implicit racism which is, if anything, even worse than usual. Generally, it’s some complex technological achievement which is claimed to be beyond the powers of ‘primitive’ people. This time, they’re claiming that Native Americans couldn’t figure out how to draw wiggly lines on their own. It’s pretty bad.
Nimoy: ‘Is this confirmation that Earth Base One was in the Southwestern United States?’
Music: 10/10, Montage: 8/10, Nimoyness: 9/10, Spookiness: 8/10, Plausibility: 0/10. Overall: 35/50. Credit.