B.G. Hilton – Writer

In Search Of… S04E24 Past Lives

James IV of Scotland (1473-1513)

I’m going to do something I don’t usually do: I’m going to make a prediction before I start watching. And my prediction is this: during this episode, no one will be interviewed who is not white.

Honestly, very few people interviewed on this show aren’t white. From memory, most of the non-white interviewees have been people of Arab or other Middle Eastern descent, and then only when looking at something related to Ancient Egypt and/or the Bible. This trend (if I am correct) will become particularly noteworthy here, where we’re talking about belief systems that are strongest in Southern and Eastern Asia. If we’re interested in reincarnation, it would be an easy thing to talk to a Hindu or Buddhist holy man. But I suspect instead we’ll be speaking to Bay Area New Age types instead.

We open – sure enough – on a sequence of white people. A woman in a black robe standing by a ruined castle. Twin women whose father believes they are reincarnations of his earlier, deceased children. A woman undergoing hypnosis to make her remember wearing a white dress next to a hedge.

“Is it possible to discover if we have lived past lives?” Nimoy intones.

Wait a second… I almost didn’t notice. Didn’t we do this episode already? Let’s see… Yes. S02E07, ‘Reincarnation’. That one was just a bunch of white people going through the New Age version of reincarnation, while this one looks like it might be exactly the same, except with different examples. It’s almost like that previous episode has in some way come back from the dead to walk the Earth again in a new form. What a crazy idea!

Last time, we had old-timey footage of industry and a little spiel about how Henry Ford believed in reincarnation. This time we have WWII footage and a little spiel about how General Patton believed in reincarnation. At least Patton wasn’t a Nazi, like Ford. He was just someone who (checks notes) vocally opposed the post-WWII program of denazification of Germany. To be fair, the newsreel footage is pretty awesome — though a brief shot of Patton smiling and laughing is actually kind of unsettling.

Now Nimoy in a graveyard. This is beat for beat the reincarnation episode. In that one, he was talking about karma in the graveyard, this time he’s talking about déjà vu and regression therapy. Cut to a middle-aged couple (white) by the name of Young, who are walking across a university campus. From the way they dress, they look like they should be teaching Business Studies but apparently they teach reincarnation at the University of California. I tried to Google them, but they have the most anodyne names ever and I got bored. Anyhoo, the husband gives what sounds like a very incorrect history of belief in reincarnation in Europe (because when you think about reincarnation, you think ‘European culture,’ naturally).

We see into a seminar that they are running, and the woman gives a simplified New Age explanation of reincarnation, which is expanded upon a little in a later interview. Getting back to my prediction, at least one of the people in the seminar is black. She seems to be pretty into what Mrs Young is saying. Nimoy says that the Youngs’ theory is not widely accepted among psychologists – to which what can one say but ‘duh’.

We see the Youngs (mostly Mrs Young) treating a patient who is unhappy with her relationship with men. So Mrs Young asks about dreams. Because the patient has been dreaming about things that haven’t happened in this lifetime, they must have happened in another. You know, like the time I dreamed about getting on a bus and finding that the driver was Gillian Anderson and all the passengers were magpies. That didn’t happen in this life, so it must have happened in another.

This bit is really boring. Like insanely boring. Honestly, I’m just waiting for the reenactent to start… Oh, here we go. Camera panning through the forrest like we’re looking for Bigfoot. Woman in a white dress wandering along the path. Initially, I think she’s pregnant, but it looks like it’s just the way the dress hangs. It all gets a bit creepy as we see a man in a toga hiding behind a tree, and then we’re back at the therapy session. The patient screams and seems genuinely upset as she describes being murdered (and possibly assaulted in other ways, though this only implied). It’s effective television, and all the more so because it comes at the end of that really dull bit about setting up.

The theory is that even though the patient didn’t have any particularly bad experiences with men in this life, this trauma from her past life in possibly Ancient Greece is what was screwing up her relationships in the here and now. Nimoy assures us that soon after this session, she met a man and they’re doing okay. As proof of this, we see the patient… sitting on her own.

Next up is a (white) pair of twins in England. Nimoy says that they disagree with their father’s opinion that they are reincarnations of their deceased sisters. I’m worried already. We set the scene in Scarborough, and we have a re-enactment of two sisters walking to church when, we are told, they were killed by a speeding car. The crew even manage to get a 1950s era Volvo for the re-enactment. I’d call that attention to detail, if it wasn’t so creepy.

The girls’ dad, standing at their graves, explains that after the deaths of his daughters, his wife gave birth to twin girls – which came as a surprise, because the doctors hadn’t detected twins. One of them had a mark on her forehead that was apparently similar to a scar one of his earlier daughters had.

Dad talks about other similarities for a bit over footage of family photos. I hope they got the twins’ permission for this. Dad talks more about things that the girls supposedly knew that they couldn’t have. The footage of him walking around a small English town pointing at how someone couldn’t have seen a thing if they didn’t already know it was there is… well, it’s mostly odd.

The twins (aged about 20 by this point?) are interviewed in the family’s business (a bookshop). Only one of them speaks, and she says in no uncertain terms that she does not believe that they are reincarnations of their sisters. She mentions sometimes feeling like she’s someone else (anyone else have that feeling as a teenager?)  but definitely not his late sister.

But after their few seconds of stating their case, we go back to dad. He talks about the evidence he has seen and considers it final – though he wonders out loud if he was looking for such evidence.

Back in the graveyard, Nimoy segues to yet another past life story. Don’t really follow his words, too busy looking at his suit. It’s a sober, dark suit with black tie, suitable for a graveyard, but with these anomalous button-down epaulets. Oh, and now we’re looking at a church.

A in very odd looking black cloak is looking at the ruined Gothic structure of Culross Abbey. She is a redhead, shot in bright sunlight and apparently without makeup, so she’s not only white she’s practically luminous. She looks about as if trying to recall things at the edge of memory. The reason for this is that she believes that she is the reincarnation of King James IV of Scotland.

The electronic music takes on the harpsichord sort of tone that it gets when it’s trying to get old-timey European. She wanders through a few places where James IV was known to have lived or been to. Very dramatically, she concentrates and ‘remembers’. There’s an unexpected attempt at a gotcha moment when she’s led through a passage in a castle that was added after James’ time, but she says she feels disorientated by the experience.

Honestly, she comes across as a British eccentric rather than someone who is deluded or fraudulent in the usual sense of those words. The basis for her story as evidence for reincarnation is that somehow the In Search Of… crew could learn the history of these ancient buildings but a history-obsessed woman somehow couldn’t. Even assuming for the sake of argument that she is the reincarnation of James IV, what we’re seeing here isn’t convincing proof of this.

But I say this for the sake of argument. What I really think is that this woman was born too early to join the SCA, and she would have had a more enjoyable life otherwise.

And now… Sitar music and stock footage of India? Was I wrong? Am I going to have to eat crow here? Nimoy talks about the importance of reincarnation in Eastern belief – and then we’re back to looking at the white people we’ve been talking too this episode.

Phew, that was close! Though to be fair, only one of the three stories involved the Bay Area New Age types I predicted, and the other two stories English eccentrics.

All up, not a terrible episode, I guess. But as I say, it doesn’t get very deeply into its subject, and it follows the structure of the previous episode on past lives too closely to be really interesting. I actually quite liked the Reincarnation episode in spite of its flaws. This one wasn’t as much fun. The James IV woman was pretty cool in her way, but the regression therapy story was mostly dull and the thing about the English twins was just weird.

And that’s Season 4 wrapped up, at long last. Net time S05E01 UFO Coverups, or as I like to think of it, ‘The First Two Seasons of X-Files in 24 Minutes.’

Quotes

‘In fact, nobody’s ever proved that we’ve only had one lifetime.’ Robert Young.

Summing Up

Eccentricity: 8/10, New information 2/10, Nimoyness: 6/10, Electronic music: 5/10, Reenactents: 6/10. Overall: 27/50. Pass.

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