Fortean Anachronism

The idea that something from outside of the boundaries of our own planet had a hand in the creation of humanity has always been a hot topic among fringe scientists, Biblical scholars and Forteans alike. Yet what was once the domain of overpaid screenwriters and science fiction authors has fast become a discussion point for fantasy based infotainment masquerading as well researched and unbiased commentary. The most well known proponent of this theory remains Ancient Aliens, a series that seems to have lost little steam since it first aired on the History Channel a decade or more ago. It is truly a masterclass in hyperstition as well as epitome of slick, substanceless science born from assumption and fictional narrative.

The premise itself is just begging for a four-hour Michael Bay epic of the same name, replete with starry-eyed teenagers, PG-13 peril and lightsaber wielding alien overlords dressed like Aztec warriors in mechanised space suits. Which is a shame because on the surface the show is actually very engaging and, dare I admit it, enjoyable to watch. However, production values and compelling arguments to not a true documentary make. The biggest problem that the show remains one of balance, or should I say the lack of it when dealing with ideas that have very little supporting evidence at all. Come closer, everyone. The rabbit hole awaits.

With an intro that puts those around the world who ardently believe the truth of historical extraterrestrial visitation somewhere in the millions, you know each and every episode is going to be a bumpy ride as far as hyperbole goes. But it would at least be hoped that Prometheus Entertainment, the company responsible for the production, would attempt to deliver a counter-point the more outrageous claims made by some of those given free reign to repackage their dubious trade as suppressed truth. Instead we are bombarded with an indistinct jumble of unrelated facts and hypothesis from a variety of questionable disciplines, and almost nothing makes any sense when looked at outside of the extremely forced narrative.

To illustrate this imbalance all one has to do is take a brief look at a cross-section of those interviewed on the show. A few such as author and journalist Nick Pope are supporters of the UFO hypothesis but not necessarily that of historical alien contact. Others like the geologist Robert M. Schoch remain happy to use ancient astronauts as a working hypothesis for the strange things seen world wide. The more resolute proponents of the theory such as David H. Childress, archaeologist and author of numerous fantastical works on historical revisionism, rabidly defend this unsubstantiated idea like their career depended on it. And it is worth remembering that, in fact, it ultimately does.

Indeed Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, one of the originators of the current resurgence of interest in the field, just so happens to be co-producer on the documentary series too. He also oversaw publication of the short lived Legendary Times Magazine through his own website. This was a quarterly journal discussing all things ancient astronauts as well as a spattering of earth mysteries and allied concepts. As you can imagine it was not exactly peer-reviewed, and became something of an echo chamber for the same underground personalities who featured on the show. Publication ceased in 2009 with little fanfare, though it has never been officially cancelled.

Prometheus Entertainment also seems happy to lean heavily on Christian and Islamic ideas to support their flimsy hypothesis when all else fails, thus building supposed fact upon pure fantasy. Biblical scholars of various types regularly get airtime to quote and misquote that not so good book as they please, highlighting another problem with the tone of the program. It is subtly asserted throughout that religion is assumed to be on the side of the astronaut theorists in their fight to redefine the true historical and extraterrestrial context of humankind. At no point does anyone appear to disagree with the narrative, nor does any right to reply for the many misquoted occult groups and secret societies exist either.

Of course, it is easy to just watch the show and enjoy all the impassioned speculation and pretty pictures, especially of you are familiar with the scholarly disciplines being poorly stitched together. While a few of those interviewed are genuinely annoying, in general each episode follows a rough structure and gives the illusion of actually making some semblance of sense. But until we reach a point when both critical thinking and personal exploration of the liminal become life skills taught in schools worldwide the group who stand to be the most effected by the memetic soup that this show creates remain the ever credulous masses, long taught by the mainstream media that everything packaged as a documentary has to be true.