The first trailer of History’s upcoming Project Blue Book, directed by Robert Zemeckis, has just been released.
As a long-time student of UFOlogy, I feel uncertain about it…
The 10-episode series follows the journey of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the college professor and astronomer hired by the Air Force who in his investigation of flying saucer reports was transformed from arch-skeptic into believer –A Scully-turned-Mulder if you will.
According to the creators and the network, the show is supposedly based on ‘true events’, and “will chronicle the true top secret United States Air Force-sponsored investigations into UFO-related phenomena in the 1950s and ’60s” –before the Condon report’s conclusions gave the Air Force the excuse they desperately sought to terminate project Blue Book, concluding that UFOs did not represent a threat to national security, or that the unidentified reports on their files were evidence of ‘extraterrestrial’ visitation.
Sure enough, the trailer begins with the stereotypical close encounter in some desolate American road, causing the engine of a truck to mysteriously stop the way it has been reported on countless cases around the world. It also gives glimpses on what surely is the famous Flatwood monster case of 1952 –which was probably the first time in which the UFO phenomenon was associated with sulphurous odors, a topic researched extensively by my friend and colleague Joshua Cutchin.
The trailer even glimpses on how the real purpose behind Blue Book was not to study UFOs, but to debunk them as expediantly as possible, which is why all the ‘unsolved’ cases were catalogued as ‘insufficient information.’
Ok, so far so good…
But THEN, the trailer gives a sharp turn into Tsoukalos territory by showing Hynek and his partner investigating a Paracas-like elongated skull (hmm) and even a pickled alien body in an unmistakeable reference to Area 51 (oh Jeez…) reminding the audience this is the same channel which has kept the infamous Ancient Aliens series running for almost 10 years.
See why I feel so uncertain about it??
Mind you, it’s not that I necessarily find things like the Paracas skulls or the Area 51 stories less or more credible than the older reports from the so-called ‘golden age’ of flying saucers –even researchers like Nick Redfern had made the argument that the Flatwood case could have very well been a psy-ops exercise— but what bothers me is that by embedding such things, the producers may be depriving their series of the proper context in the history of UFO research; Hynek himself, for instance, was never fully sold on the idea of a government cover-up involving the retrieval of crashed saucers –though he remained agnostic about such a possibility by the end of his life.
It also bears mentioning this is not the first time project Blue Book has been brought to the television. In the late 1970s the TV series Project UFO also claimed to draw direct inspiration from the Air Force’s (then) recently declassified files. The show’s protagonists (played by William Jordan and William Caskey Swaim) were two officers from the Foreign Technology Division at Wright Patterson Air Force Base –UFO lore considers Wright Patterson as the place where the Roswell wreckage was sent for storage in 1947– are seen traveling all over the US in order to solve UFO cases.
I remember watching this show as a child and being both fascinated and frustrated by it, because even though in every single episode the two A.F. officers managed to find a conventional explanation for the cases they set out to investigate, during the final minutes before the credits rolled in there was always the slight hint of a true mystery behind the UFO phenomenon which kept eluding the authorities.
With that old 1970’s show, fascination always trumped the frustration of that naive Mexican kid who kept tuning in for more. But now I am an adult with more than 30 years of UFO study under my belt. Ironically, that which I found frustrating about Project UFO –the fact that it never crossed the paradigm line and unequivocally confirmed UFOs are real– unnerves me with this brief glimpse of Zemeckis’s Project Blue Book, which seems to take for granted many things that have been carelessly incorporated into the UFO mythology without a good amount of evidence to back them up –including the idea that there’s a nepharious cover-up orchestrated by the higher echelons of a secret para-government organization in charge of hiding the truth, the blood of the 1990’s paranoia spearheaded by the X-Files which has brought us not only nutjobs like Randy Cramer and Corey Goode, but also Alex Jones… and Trump.
Movies and TV series are funny things. They can be either a product of their times, or shaping forces of the culture that spawned them, even many years after they were originally released (sometimes a funky mixture of both). Project UFO has the markings of the late 1970s era, when Spielberg had released Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind in the footsteps of Erich von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin’s revisionist views of ancient history and ‘paleo-contact’. From that perspective, it will be interesting to see how this new TV series affects the current zeitgeist, now that there seems to be an effort from former intelligence assests to finally bring UFOs into the mainstream in a respectable fashion –which apparently necessitates the stripping down of any notion of close encounters of the third kind and high strangeness from the UFO records, and act as if those pesky unidentified craft had just started to pop into our skies fairly recently, like we were still living in the 1950’s…
I guess we’ll have no choice but to wait. And stay tuned.