Everything old is new again.
Back in the late 60's/early 70's ancient aliens were a big fad,
do to the book Chariots of the Gods?
by Erich von Däniken and its sequels.
The book put forth the theory that mankind had been visited by
the ancient past and that many advances in civilization were due to
intervention. His proof?
That mainly consisted of a lot of leading
arguments, misinterpretations of ancient art, and some out and out lies. (The PBS show Nova tracked
down the guy who made the pottery depicting aliens and
even admitted that von Däniken paid him to make them to his
specifications.) That fad died soon
enough, but here we are, decades later, and the History Channel has
a show filled with pseudoarchaeology, Ancient
Aliens. The first season is now
available on Blu-ray, so you can see all the hokum in high definition.
Starting with the premises that the Earth was visited in
ancient times by aliens, the show goes about looking for evidence. It finds something akin to that mainly by
ignoring more sedate and rational explanations. From
the pyramids themselves (always used as
proof of alien contact) to ancient painting and even texts, they paint
convincing argument, but only if you're really, really gullible.
A good example of the approach the show takes is its
examination of the Saqqara Bird. This is
an object that was found in the late 1800's in an Egyptian tomb and is
2200 years old. (See picture
below.) It looks like a bird, right? It could be a toy, or a decoration or even a
weather vane. But the show takes the
position that it's a model of a glider!
Not that the wing is straight and not jointed like a real bird's
and the tail is vertical instead of horizontal like a bird's.
To add weight to this hypothesis, they find someone who made
a scale model of the bird and tested it in a wind tunnel.
It could fly, but only if you
mount a horizontal stabilizer at the rear!
That's a significant problem that the omnipresent narrator
saying claiming that the part could just be missing.
(They pull a similar trick with a small gold
triangular object that roughly looks a little bit plane-like. When they make a scale model they add
airfoils to the wings and a propeller to the front.
They succeed in proving only that it's
possible to alter ancient designs to make them air-worthy and nothing
Of course they don't present any opposing opinions.
If they really wanted to be objective, they
should have searched out Martin Gregorie, who builds gliders. He created a replica of the Saqqara Bird and
tested it too. He concluded "the
Saqqara Bird never flew... [It] was probably made as a child's toy or a
But let's accept that the bird would have flown. Do
you see the still gaping hole in their
argument? Why does a model that could
have functioned as a glider mean that aliens were here???
No where through the series do they ever make
that connection, though the make the illogical leap frequently. More precisely they ask a lot of leading
questions that they hope will cause viewers to make that leap for
themselves: Could ancient astronauts
brought gliders from beyond the stars?
If they did bring gliders, where are they??
That would have been a pretty significant
event, seeing the Pharaoh fly through the sky, not to mention a very
military advantage. You'd think the
Romans might have noticed planes when they invaded, and it might have
their plans too. There isn't a
preponderance of evidence that the Egyptians could fly, just one wooden
that (the show grudgingly admits) CAN'T fly as it is.
If it was just that one example of sloppy work, I could
ignore it, but every thing they discuss has the same leaps of logic
the show ignoring much more mundane, but probable explanations. Every primitive religion that has a god in
the sky is really talking about an alien, according to the show, and
Egyptian gods that had the heads of animals?
Well that's a dead giveaway isn't it? They
even jump to the recent past and examine
incident and the "Battle of Los Angles" in 1942 where local
artillery gunner sent up a barrage against non-existent Japanese planes. Which is more probable: that
it was a false alarm caused triggered by
skittish and over excited people mere months after the Pearl Harbor attack, or aliens visiting?
The five episodes that make up the first season arrive on
three Blu-ray discs that are housed in a double-width case. There is no slipcase.
I was surprised that the video quality was so mediocre.
Many of the images are very good, with a lot
of detail and tight lines, but there are a lot of compression artifacts
other of the newly recorded scenes.
Walls of hieroglyphics tend to shimmer as if they were alive
camera pans over them slowly and aliasing is a pretty significant
problem. It's never distracting, but it is
The DTS-HD stereo audio track does the job. There's
really not a lot to this program
sonically, just a deep voiced narrator and some occasional people
outrageous theories, so a stereo mix is fine.
The voices are clean and clear and there are no dropouts or
noise. There are optional English subtitles.
This set does include the pilot episode, Ancient Aliens:
Chariots, Gods & Beyond,
which casts a non-critical eye on the 'work' of convicted fraud1 Erich von
Däniken. As I mentioned earlier, he
pretty much made up a lot of his 'evidence' and stole
his theories from the
dark fantasy writings of H. P. Lovecraft, though this episode
doesn't touch on
that. I'm actually fairly astounded that
the show was picked up after this.
It constantly amazes me that, in a society that is largely
ruled by technology, from the Internet to large screen LCD TVs, that
people choose to ignore the scientific method and science in general. That's the case with this show. Instead
of looking at evidence and creating a
hypothesis, they start with the hypothesis (that aliens were here) and
force the evidence to agree with it.
It's a subtle but very significant difference.
The result is a show of little entertainment value
and no real clear thinking. Added to that,
the video presentation is just so-so. Best stay
away from this. Skip it.
1) Von Däniken was
convicted and sent to prison twice, once for fraud and once for
embezzlement. He's not the most honest guy
in the world.