"This series presents information based in part on theory
and conjecture. The producer's purpose is to suggest some possible
explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we
examine." - spoken at the conclusion of the opening sequence for every
Ahh, 1976. The United States
was celebrating its 200th year of existence, we were just
over or fascination with Pet Rocks, and elephant bell bottoms and mood
were in fashion. It was also a time when
Americans, by and large, were infatuated with pseudoscience (after
preceding sentence, is it any wonder?).
UFOs, pyramid power, and the Bermuda Triangle were all the
hot-selling books, movies, and TV specials.
A few years earlier the Academy Award nominated German
documentary Chariots of the Gods, based on Erich von
Däniken's book of the same name, was dubbed into English with Rod
acting as narrator. The name was changed
to In Search of Ancient Astronauts
and it aired on NBC in 1973. The movie
garnered good ratings, a sequel followed which also did well, and in
TV series In Search of... was
I was a middle school student at the time and a huge Star
Trek fan, so when I heard that Leonard Nimoy was going to be hosting a
that investigates unexplained phenomenon, I was excited.
I still remember watching the very first
episode and catching as many of the others that I could.
No, I wasn't taken in even at the wise age of
12 by everything theory that the show touted, but it was a lot of fun
what if. It also opened my eyes to a lot
of history and information that I hadn't previously been exposed to,
a good thing. The show has continued to
air, sporadically, on independent stations and cable channels ever
first debuted, and now it's finally available on DVD, thanks to Visual
Entertainment Inc. They've released the
entire six season of the show, the 2002 remake series, as well at the
original Rod Serling TV specials in a very attractive 21-disc set. That's 146 total episodes which run over 55
hours. It's enough to keep fans of the
unexplained happy for a very long time.
The series is hosted by Leonard Nimoy and over the course of
the show they look at just about every strange phenomena, paranormal
supernatural happening, pseudoscientific theory, urban-legend, and
that you can imagine. Everything from
the abominable snowman to witch doctors and everything in between is
It's this wide variety of topics that makes the show so much
fun. Have trouble swallowing Animal
ESP? Don't worry, the next one will be
something else, maybe the gigantic explosion near the Tunguska
River in Russia
in 1908 (that knocked down
all of the trees for a five mile radius) that may have been caused by a
striking Earth, or an exploding space ship.
And isn't either explanation really cool?
Most of the shows, especially in the earlier seasons, are
devoted to more common pseudoscience beliefs:
ESP, Atlantis, ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot all make early
appearances. These shows rely on a lot
of conjecture and leaps of logic, but that's a lot of the program's
lure: throwing rigor out the window and
"but what if they're right??" One of my
favorite tactics that the show employs is to ask viewers to accept an
supposition and then make a small intellectual leap from there: "If Bigfoot does exist, isn't it possible
that the creature is migratory and doesn't stay in one place for very
long?" They're careful not to actually
state that Bigfoot exists. They let the
viewers jump to that conclusion themselves.
It's a nice way to lead people to a conclusion.
The one thing I honestly appreciated was seeing the
"investigators" who research the various topics that are examined. These people were all very devoted and
passionate about their fields. That
doesn't mean that their conclusions have any more bearing on reality
someone who isn't obsessed, but the people watching for the Loch Ness
or hunting ghosts did have an infectious love for their oddball area of
expertise. Getting to know some of these
researchers is one of the reasons In
Search of... is so enjoyable to watch.
The show doesn't always take to side of the unusual or
supernatural either, something I had totally forgotten from watching it
first aired. It's pretty rare, but
occasionally they'll opt for a more rational explanation that doesn't
something outside of the realm of science.
The best example of this comes from the third season, when they
show on very recent (at the time) disappearances of large private ships
Bermuda Triangle. They related a few
stories about wealthy people sailing for pleasure in the infamous area
disappeared and were never heard from again, but then they came up with
interesting theory: they were attacked
by pirates. More specifically, drug
dealers who wanted to use the boats to smuggle contraband. That's
out of the realm of possibility.
As the show progresses more and more episodes are devoted to
historical mysteries that aren't necessarily supernatural in nature. The above-mentioned Tunguska
event is one, but there are many other occurrences and people that are
discussed: the disappearance of Amelia
Earhart, the historical Dracula, Jack the Ripper, the origins of
Holmes, and the fate of Jimmy Hoffa are just a few.
The show is at its best when it's looking at
these type of cases, and they can be very informative.
One of my favorites was the program on the Oak Island
Treasure. As the story goes, in 1795 a
teen discovered a depression in the ground on an uninhabited island off
of Nova Scotia. Above the depression he noticed a tree limb
that had rope burns cut into it, as if someone had used a block and
lower a heavy object. He brought two of
his friends back to the spot with some shovels and they started to dig. At ten feet they discovered a platform
constructed of old logs and ship tar.
Beneath that was more dirt, but 10 feet later they found another
platform. And another, and another,
every ten feet down to 90 feet. When
they finally got that far, after years of digging, the shaft they had
filled with water which caused them to stop.
Every few years someone else would take up the task of digging
was thought to be a valuable treasure.
There were digs started in 1850, 1893, and 1909.
The latter included a young Franklin Delano
Roosevelt, but none of them were successful.
The shaft kept flooding or collapsing though tantalizing
discovered along the way: a stone tablet
with unusual runes was found and deciphered to read "Forty Feet Below
Million Pounds Are Buried," three small gold link were discovered
an auger that drilled deep into the hole, and there were channels lined
coconut husks leading out to the sea that were causing the pit to flood. While each expedition dug a bit deeper,
nothing was ever found. It's quite a
mystery, and while the show didn't mention the fact that the carved
other artifacts that were found in the pit are now lost, they basically
facts correct. It's interesting to note
that even today there are people who are still looking for the treasure.
The 146 episode collection arrives in a sturdy, attractively
illustrated box. Opening the box at the
top reveals the 21 DVDs, each season in its own single-width keepcase. It's a very nice looking package.
The show was
broadcast in mono, and that's what we get here.
The sound was about what you'd expect from a show from the 70's
hasn't been restored. The narration
comes through clearly, but it's not as crisp as a current show and the
range is on the anemic side. Overall
it's a fine sounding collection.
The full-frame color image has not been restored, and while
it is showing its age, it generally looks good. The colors aren't as
you'd find on a syndicated program today, everything looks just a
and there are a few instances of dirt but it's generally easy on the
There are only a couple of extras,
but they are fantastic. The final case
three DVDs which include the entire revival series.
Originally broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel in
2002, this remake featured Mitch Pileggi (X-Files,
Stargate Atlantis) as the host.
Pileggi is a very good replacement for Nimoy, he has a similar
pedigree and his voice is a bit creepy which fits in well with the tone
show, but this version takes a more shotgun approach to the subject
matter. Instead of devoting an episode
to one a subject, each hour-long installment (around 45-minutes after
out the commercials) has 3-4 topics that aren't related at all. One, for example, deals with mummified human
remains in catacombs in Sicily,
Bigfoot, Devil Worship, and earthquake predictions.
They don't really flow from one topic to the
next gracefully. It's a bit more eerie
than the original though and it was nice that all 8 episodes were
The final disc is reserved for the
original two television specials, In Search of Ancient Astronauts and
of Ancient Mysteries, both narrated Rod Serling. It
was the popularity of these two specials, the
first one based on the best-selling book Chariots
of the Gods? by Erich von Däniken, that led to the creation of the
series. Serling was intended to host the
show, but his untimely death in 1975 (at the age of 50) prevented that. These shows, hokey and filled with
inaccuracies though they are, are great fun as well as some of the last
that Serling did.
This show is nonscientific and just about always jumps to
the most outlandish (and entertaining) conclusion possible. But it's an extremely fun program even if
you're not quite won over to their point.
I'm a huge skeptic when it comes to any of that pseudoscientific
but I still had a blast watching this show.
If you are at all interested in otherworldly topics such as UFO
you can't go wrong with this impressive set.