Ancient Aliens – Season 6, Volume 2

| January 9, 2015

I was intrigued by the premise of this series for a while.  If you’re unfamiliar with the show, each episode examines a historical figure or artifact and speculates about extraterrestrial influence in our development as a species.  Well, “speculates” is really giving the show too much credit.  The show presents crazy theories about alien interference on humanity as if it’s a documented fact.  They don’t speak of these ideas as theories or the beliefs of a select few; instead, they pretend it’s real in order to hook their audience.  This season devotes episodes to shamans, insects, reptiles, mysterious structures and devices, the God particle, Superheroes, and Nikola Tesla.  Each episode talks with historians, alien experts, and conspiracy theorists.

I chose a few episodes to watch for this review.  I started with the first episode about Shamans, who were medicine men who believed they could commune with a spirit realm.  I’m not cynical about religion, and just watching an hour long documentary about Shamans and their beliefs would have been really interesting to me, but implying that they were given these powers by aliens is an idea that belongs in the latest Paul W. S. Anderson movie rather than a documentary series about human history.

Next, I watched the episode about Nikola Tesla because I find him fascinating.  Like the first episode, the experts make their claims that Tesla’s genius was orchestrated by extraterrestrials.  This gets at my central problem with organized religion: the idea that if someone has above average abilities that they must have been chosen by some sort of higher power, whether it’s a god or an alien race.  I have a friend who is deeply religious and every time she gets a good grade in a class or anything goes well in her life she posts on facebook about how it was all thanks to God.  This is a bit sad to me because she has free will and she chooses to work hard at school and she gives all of the credit for that away.  Even if it weren’t for the alien angle on the Tesla episode, it would be pretty dull and conventional.  There are a lot of interesting things to look at concerning Tesla’s life, but this profile of him seemed to only care about presenting its alien theory and then filling the rest of the episode with facts you could find on Tesla’s Wikipedia page.

The superhero episode was interesting as long as it was talking about modern superhero myths being inspired by stories of the ancient Greek gods.  Again, the problem with this episode is that the experts talk about the Greek gods as a matter of fact, and of course speculate that the gods were advanced alien beings giving advanced technology to early humans.  The thought that the Greeks were just incredibly imaginative and creative never comes into the conversation.  If the Greeks wrote about seeing two flying cities in battle with each other, that couldn’t possibly be fiction, right?  They must have actually seen it, right?  And that must have been an alien civilization, right?  No.  The Greeks invented theatre and playwriting.  Can you even imagine how impossibly difficult it would be to create a completely new artistic expression?  I can’t.

I understand that without the alien angle, the series would have no cohesion, but it feels unprofessional and irresponsible to present theories in this way.  The show must be popular to have stayed around this long, but it represents everything wrong with a history channel comfortable with sacrificing historical integrity for higher ratings.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate on January 13.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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