Have you ever seen Blake Edwards’s Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), the last of the Pink Panther films to feature Peter Sellers as the bumbling investigator Inspector Clouseau? Sellers had died in 1980, and Edwards thought it would be a fitting tribute to the late comic actor to stitch together unused outtakes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and newly-shot footage featuring other actors to edit the material into a ramshackle new plot. (Sellers’ widow successfully sued, claiming the film had destroyed Sellers’ reputation.) I bring this up because season five of Ancient Aliens reminds me increasingly of Trail of the Pink Panther in that every episode seems stitched together from topics and discussions borrowed from earlier episodes, very gently revised to give the semblance of a “new” episode to heavily recycled material. That Ancient Aliens features the final performance of the late Philip Coppens only makes the parallels more uncanny.
Now, just to be clear: The talking heads were newly filmed for this season, so the material isn’t directly pasted in from earlier shows. Instead, the topics and talking points are recycled, often point-for-point, sometimes from episodes that just aired this season.
This episode of Ancient Aliens, S05E09 “Strange Abductions,” recycles material dating back to the first or second season but more recently seen in “The Greys” from last season and “Prophets and Prophecy” from just two weeks ago. But, on the plus side we returned to the pretty blue title card showing an alien death beam.
The flimsy premise on which this episode of Ancient Aliens stands is that the 1975 “abduction” of logger Travis Walton somehow has merit—let alone is the “most credible abduction [story] on record,” as the narrator says. Walton’s job isn’t really logging anymore; in fact, it hasn’t been for decades. His primary job nowadays is promoting his alleged alien encounter and selling the story in every possible medium, from websites to game show appearances. The facts of his abduction are so plain that it astounds me that anyone could take it seriously. In October of 1975, Walton and his crew were getting ready to face a significant penalty for failing to meet a logging deadline set for November 10, 1975, a penalty that could only be avoided by an “act of God.” On October 20, 1975 NBC aired The UFO Incident, a TV movie about the Betty and Barney Hill abduction, itself inspired by the Hills’ confused recollection of several episodes of ABC’s The Outer Limits. Walton, a huge UFO buff, almost certainly watched it. Two weeks later, on November 5—just days before the penalty deadline—the aliens abducted Walton. During his absence, none of his family or friends showed any concern, and it became obvious the stunt was a conspiracy by Walton and his crew to fabricate an “act of God” to avoid a financial penalty. The most interesting thing about the entire incident is that Walton based his abduction on a TV movie based on a real life incident based on a TV show—which in turn became its own 1993 movie, Fire in the Sky! The hall of mirrors effect goes a long way toward proving my often-made point about the interrelationship between paranormal pseudoscience and science fiction and horror entertainment.
In the episode, we actually hear from Walton, who seems remarkably unaffected by the fact that, as far as he knows, he is the only human to ever have confronted beings from another world. Nothing in his experience, of course, can’t be found in the Hill abduction or any number of science fiction movies.
A brief mention of Project Bluebook and J. Allen Hyneck’s belief in the reality of the UFO experience, a belief born of his own unconventional belief system, not of science, leads to the close encounter classification system. He invented the close encounter system for grading UFO encounters, which is described in useless detail to waste time. We return to material discussed last year in “The Greys” to review abductees’ sexual fantasies about disturbing alien intercourse and the creation of hybrid human-aliens.
Finally, we move on to ancient history… but it isn’t good. The show returns to material from “Prophets and Prophecy” to start detailing how the Bible and the extra-biblical texts have alien abductions in them. The first story discussed is that of Enoch, which I have discussed repeatedly. Enoch wasn’t discussed at length in “Prophets,” and now we know why. They were saving him. Erich von Däniken tells us that Enoch met aliens and traveled in a “fiery chariot,” which is his mistake conflating Elijah with Enoch (though Elijah doesn’t really ride in one either). As a point of fact, in Genesis (5:24) Enoch is merely said to have walked with God, and even in his own book, there is no fiery chariot. But note that in 1 Enoch 70:3 the angels use “chariots of spirit,” though Enoch merely says he was “translated” in 71:1, with no mechanism specified. But if you want to get technical, Enoch also says the sun and the moon rise in the same chariots (72:5 and 73:2). Let me know if you catch either body riding around in one. I’ve discussed the Book of Enoch several times, and it is very clearly not a story of alien abduction but rather a reworking of Near Eastern mythology, particularly the idea of various colleges of gods and demigods. But there’s no reason to go into that because the show doesn’t go beyond the nonexistent “fiery chariot.”
We return to the story of Moses covered in “Prophets and Prophecy,” about which I have little more to add than I said last time. The show had nothing new to say either, except that two weeks ago Moses and God were meeting as friends and this time it’s an “abduction.”
Next up is one of ancient astronautics’ greatest hits: Ezekiel! Ezekiel’s story has been carefully and exhaustively explained as a description of the iconography associated with the thrones of the Mesopotamian gods, and this explanation is so convincing I can’t possibly imagine how anyone could seriously claim he saw a UFO except through willful ignorance. Among the various speakers, not a single one has any inkling that the Book of Ezekiel has any sort of cultural context. Besides, Ezekiel didn’t just see a “UFO”; he also saw a zombie apocalypse where the corpses of the dead rose up. Anyone care about that?
Following this, we get Jonah! I wrote about this yesterday, and I have nothing to add to it other than my utter amazement that Giorgio Tsoukalos thinks that the “whale” (actually a “great fish”) was a submarine or UFO (an idea also found in Raëlianism) because he and the others find it impossible to believe that anyone could live in a fish for three days! As though there is no other possible explanation for how an allegorical story came to be. I also can’t find the texts Tsoukalos refers to claiming that the whale was made of gleaming bronze, a claim he apparently first made several years ago in an episode I have not seen. I think he is mixing up the whale of Jonah with the description of Behemoth in Job 40:18 where God says its "bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like rods of iron." Obviously this means it was a tank.
Once again, Ancient Aliens tells Muslims that they worship aliens by informing them that Mohammad was fooled by aliens into recording the alien-written Qur’an, thus making Islam a completely fictitious religion created by alien-demons. You have to give them credit, I guess, for having the balls (or the obliviousness) to say this in the current political climate. According to them, the angel Gabriel was an extraterrestrial who repeatedly abducted Mohammad in order to “seed” him with alien-approved teachings. I’m not sure what’s sadder, claiming that Islam is of alien origin or the implication that the aliens approve of stoning people to death, amputating limbs, and jihad—or the darker side of any religion’s sacred texts.
Philip Coppens admits that the (apocryphal, post-Qur’anic) story of Mohammad’s flight from Mecca to Jerusalem in a single night cannot be possible according to accepted understanding of medieval technology, but he specifically states that we should reject the allegorical interpretation of this event because taking it literally would help us to assume the aliens were behind it! The story is an extrapolation from Qur’an 17:1, in which the “furthest mosque” is identified with Jerusalem; it is a legend, not an original Islamic teaching.
After this we get a repeat of the Bermuda Triangle material from the episode devoted to that. The talking heads (my notes actually read “idiots” at this point) seem unaware of any of the actual literature on the subject, which has found no higher rate of disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle than anywhere else with comparable traffic. But somehow the Bermuda Triangle is related to Atlantis! Atlantis is attributed to “ancient legends,” which misrepresents the fact that Atlantis was the invention of Plato. A poor professor of Classics is badly edited to make it sound like he thinks Atlantis is real, and John DeSalvo tells us that—and listen to this!--because we have no archaeological evidence Atlantis existed, it must therefore have been sucked entirely to the bottom of the ocean! Show me. Find me a spot on earth with a sunken continent. There isn’t one. Plate tectonics rules it out, along with the trans-dimensional vortex David Childress thinks sits beneath the Bermuda Triangle.
Christopher O’Brien tells us that the Anaszai (ancestral Pueblo) were “mysterious,” and Tsoukalos is amazed by their cliff dwellings in a clip obviously filmed much earlier since he is wearing his season four clothing. Tsoukalos thinks that an “aerial enemy” caused them to build defensive dwellings. The cliff dwellings were constructed to bring people up off the ground to prevent ground-based attacks, not to hide from sky beings. Someone has been watching too much news coverage of the unmanned drone program. The Anasazi, in the final phase of their warlike culture, built cliff dwellings due to warfare, leading to cultural collapse as water dried up, crops failed, and cannibalism emerged. They did not “vanish” in a mass “abduction” by aliens looking for gold; their bodies have been found, and, sadly, we can see that many were butchered and cooked in a civilization driven to extremes by incessant, bloody warfare and the stress of climate change. The Anasazi did not vanish; large numbers moved to the Hopi mesas and became today’s Native peoples of the region.
Robert Schoch tells us that we can’t know whether Islamic djinn really come from another dimension (though he apparently believes it), and the narrator states that the Qu’ran claims the djinn come from this other dimension. However, Qu’ran 72:1-8 tells us that the djinn seem to live in the sky, not another dimension. But there’s no time for that because it’s time for red hot spirit-alien psychic sex! I’m not sure I entirely follow this. Erich von Däniken is fairly certain that the flesh-and-blood aliens are having real sexy-sex with humans that produces viable offspring (take that, Darwin!), but the other talking heads and the narrator claim instead that these beings are trans-dimensional psychic spirit beings that “psychically abduct” humans telepathically (like, I guess, Lovecraft’s Great Race from The Shadow Out of Time) and simply induce imaginary visions of orgasm.
Schoch again claims that “star beings” are disembodied aliens from another dimension, and David Childress thinks the aliens “abduct” people mentally by stealing their consciousness across dimensional rifts through what the narrator says is “alien mind control”—“essential for our very survival.” This again seems to be on the order of Lovecraft’s Great Race. I’ve already said my piece about how this show is simply neo-pagan propaganda, but seriously, do any of these people stop to think that they have left no space between “aliens” and “gods” and are pretty much just worshipping Zeus and Thor? I give von Däniken credit for sticking to what archaeologist Ken Feder calls the “horny alien hypothesis” with real alien-on-human sexcapades. This neo-pagan spiritual mumbo-jumbo is vastly more annoying because it is un-falsifiable and un-testable: If there is no way to distinguish between imagination, aliens, and pagan gods, we’re just talking philosophy at this point.
We conclude, sadly, with yet another recap of the claim that various historical figures, such as Nicola Tesla, were given their ideas through psychic communication with the trans-dimensional spirit beings. We’ve heard this, I think, twice before this season, and it’s getting old. We get it, Ancient Aliens: You think human beings aren’t capable of original thought, and you’re damned well prepared to use your show to prove your point by ensuring that you include absolutely no new ideas in any episode this season. Last week, David Childress told us we were the aliens’ “children.” This week some other guy tells us we are their “pets.” I get it. You’ve read Charles Fort and can sort of build on his line from the Book of the Damned (1919) about the aliens’ colonization plans: “Worlds that were once tutelarian worlds—before this earth became sole property of one of them—their attempts to convert or assimilate—but then the state that comes to all things in their missionary-frustrations—unacceptance by all stomachs of some things; rejection by all societies of some units; glaciers that sort over and cast out stones.” What? Ancient Aliens is at least as coherent as that.
I could have done, though, without the shots of giant sperm heading for a space baby.
“You have to ask yourself if there’s not some big alien agenda,” Childress says, about the alien abductions. He promises that there is a “big event” coming up and that the aliens are abducting us to prepare us for this future event. Uh-huh. The talking heads can’t decide whether there is one alien species or many, one alien agenda or several. The aliens, they all agree, promise a wonderful new future when alien contact helps us transcend our mere humanity and touch the face of God, or whatever. Hallelujah, Amen, Namaste, Iä Cthulhu fhtagn!
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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