Close Encounters of the Fictional Kind

Much like former NBC newsman Arthur Kent, I’ve been on assignment.

He's so dreamy!

And while I’ve been shooting clay in Montana, interviewing Harrison Ford, hitting up Comic-Con and recovering from the dreaded Con-Crud virus, one thing has been constant: Ancient Aliens.

The show is available on Netflix and I’m utterly charmed by its collection of “experts,” pop archeology, and its one compelling theory. I find I cannot get enough of it, but here’s the catch … it puts me to sleep.

Let’s talk format. At least in its first season, the show is roughly 80 minutes long. I suppose that means it was a 90 minute show on air. Because of its odd runtime, it goes into odd topics in the middle of more interesting ideas. In the first episode, we’re introduced to the curious idea of an ancient network of flying craft called vimanas. It’s actually pretty interesting and they offer Indian myths as evidence of this lost era. I like Grant Morrison comics, so I can at least enjoy the fantasy aspect. Then the show ruins it by spending a half hour talking about a city that had advanced metallurgic and masonry practices.

That sound you’re hearing is my snoring.

This is a key problem with the show. Fascinating “what if” segments sandwiched next to really pathetic packages about crop circles and crystal skulls.

I don't want to believe.

Other awesome ideas include the following:

1. A war between alien races, once you translate the imagery in the Mahabharata

2. The Flood as the alien attempt to eradicate earlier hominid races and inject a hybrid race we now call Homo Sapien; of course, for that, one must read the Lamech Scroll from the Dead Sea collection.

3. The Israelites were instructed to create a machine that gave them a high-protein sustenance: we call it “manna.”

4. Ancient civilizations had access to an advanced means of negating gravity, allowing them to create their megalithic structures.

5. We all come from a star called “Sirius B.” (How the ancient aliens knew my girlfriend would take my suggestion of “Sirius Black” as a name for the dog is even stranger.)

All of these theories are backed by experts like Graham Hancock, Erich Van Daniken and this happy fellow:

The only alien is his hair.

Giorgio A. Tsoukalos holds a Doctorate in sports information communications and Science from Ithaca college, but serves as a consulting producer on the show and is one of the most prominent talking heads on the show. Besides his hair, the most fascinating thing about him is his smug air of superiority because, as he sees it, humans of earlier ages could not identify aliens for what they were. instead, they turned them into the gods.

Cause, you know, aliens are definitely the more rational viewpoint.

Uncredited Creator of Battlestar Galactica

All of this comes from Daniken, who first popularized the ancient alien theory in his book “Chariots of the Gods.” In that book, he suggested aliens offered advanced sciences and technologies to our ancient ancestors and the oldest of ruins are proof of that contact. He’s a fairly controversial figure who tried to fabricate supporting evidence to back up his theories. He also was known to defraud his employers back in the 1960s, so he’s not the most credible of sources. What he does offer, I think, is an interesting mind-game. Each episode of the show begins by asking “What if?” Consequently, it’s fun to play the game and see how elliptical descriptions of odd lights in the skies might be aliens. Hell, I like the notion from the Sumerian creation myth that human begins began as a slave race for a group of supernatural entities. It’s a fun interpretation of an ancient myth.

The show also offers the notion that Akhenaten, the infamous Pharaoh who introduced monotheism into Egypt, might’ve been a hybrid himself based on the way he ordered artisans to depict him:

Say...

He also had an odd body with a pot-belly and a sunken chest. The experts count that as evidence that he — and possibly the entire line of Pharaohs — had extraterrestrial origins. Lots about Akhenaten is obscure, weird, and fascinating. Naturally, that makes him ripe for use in the ancient alien theory.

So, what is the genuinely interesting theory I teased earlier? It’s called “panspermia” — a notion that life came to Earth from elsewhere on either a meteor or an artificial space vehicle. The key here is that it came in microscopic form, not unlike the microbes found in that Martian rock awhile back. To me, that’s a completely plausible idea. Consider for a moment that life emerges in a water-rich environment and over the course of millions of years advances to a point where it can further that microscopic life onto another water-rich environment.

Or, to put it in Christian terms, “In the beginning, there was the word.”

As a writer who grew up listening to his grandfather talk about conspiracy theories, this one has a certain poetry for me. The pure strain of information continues to move on from world to world, learning more about reality as it goes and evolves. It also offers a completely satisfying answer to the most primal of questions. We’re here to pass information along. Of course, I could just be revealing my romantic side with this notion.

Where the show really falls down is giving any air time to junk like crop circles, crystal skulls, and the world energy grid. All of that stuff doesn’t even have the benefit of the historical game of telephone to give it even the slightest bit of credence. It’s a fun exercise to consider the idea that advanced civilizations existed in our distant past, but once you get to the present, you get to the same problem as God: where are they now?

Since I’m the sort that requires material proof in the material world, the lack of a concrete alien presence blows a hole in any of the modern topics the show covers. Those claims of “world energies” cannot be measured. The crop circles authorities tend to talk in faith-based, whishy-washy terms. At this point, a God who requires no proof is easier to swallow than hoops the experts go through in order to make their ideas fit into our world.

Luckily, those goofball aspects of pseudoscience do not take up the bulk of the episodes I’ve seen so far. Instead, the show continues to offer me plenty of interesting speculation to play with and ponder. It’s no different than a good sci-fi yarn. In fact, the whole thing might remind some of you of a particular bad sci-fi story.

I guess it’s all part of God’s plan.

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About Erik

Erik Amaya is the host of Tread Perilously and the former Head Film/TV writer at Bleeding Cool. He has also contributed to sites like CBR, Comics Alliance and Fanbase Press. He is also the voice of Puppet Tommy on "The Room Responds."
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