In reviewing Ancient Aliens there are many levels of consideration I have to weigh in putting together my take on an episode. One is the theoretical: Which claims are worth discussing, and how much detail do I provide in evaluating what they say? The other is quite practical: The show is an hour long, and if I am reviewing it in real time, there is only so much I research I can do during the commercial breaks. This episode, S07E02 “The Tesla Experiment,” falls into the category of practical problems. I don’t know much at all about Nikola Tesla, and it’s hard for me to have much to say about an episode that attempts to expand earlier episodes’ segments on Tesla into a full hour. I can say this: Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) certainly stretches the definition of “ancient” in the show’s title.
Before we begin, it’s worth noting that this episode is modeled closely on S05E05 “The Einstein Factor,” which also claimed that a modern figure had revelations from space beings—and which also featured a long segment on Tesla himself. Tesla has been a frequent subject of Ancient Aliens despite not being ancient.
The episode starts with claims that the FBI seized all of Tesla’s materials at his death (which is true), with the strong suggestion that they did so to suppress high technology and alien secrets (which is most likely not true). The FBI apparently worried that Tesla’s material might fall into communist hands because Tesla was Serbian by birth and therefore might have connections to the Communist or Nationalist movements in occupied Yugoslavia.
The show backtracks to suggest that there was a prophecy given at his birth that he would be a “Child of Light.” It then gives a potted history of Tesla’s work with alternating current (they attribute to him work first done by George Westinghouse) and his various scientific and technological interests. The show is clearly playing for time in an effort to generate a full hour of content out of what they previously treated as a 10-minute segment on past episodes. Ten minutes into the hour, aliens haven’t been mentioned. Instead, we hear about pollution, environmentalism, and futurism. One speaker even suggests that Tesla is a figure of Gothic horror by claiming (falsely) that he was born near Transylvania (Smiljan, Croatia is nowhere near Transylvania), while the ancient astronaut rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok claims he fulfills a prophecy from the Zohar about opening the gates of wisdom.
David Childress suggests that Tesla received messages from ET through his subconscious. Childress once claimed to be Nikola Tesla’s posthumous coauthor in The Fantastic Inventions of Nikola Tesla (1993), in which Childress claimed that Tesla got ideas from Atlantis, but the show only acknowledges this in an onscreen identifier marking him as the author of The Tesla Papers, which appears to be a retitled version of the older book.
As we roll into the first commercial, the parallel to the “Einstein Factor” episode is clear: The show is going to claim that invisible aliens set up spiritual wi-fi in the genius’ brain and gave him all his ideas. It’s the idea that humans are too dim to come up with ideas on their own. I wonder if the aliens get a cut of the profits from Ancient Aliens since there’s no way any of the people on this show could come up with their ingenious theories on their own—at least not by their own admission.
The next segment describes Tesla’s plan for global wireless energy, and Nick Redfern suggests that corporations suppressed his wireless electricity experiments to preserve their profits. I guess he’s thinking of the plot of the 1977 David Mamet play The Water Engine and its 1992 TV-movie adaptation.
Anyway, the show repeats the idea that space aliens were able to project blueprints and scientific plans into Tesla’s brain, and then Tsoukalos suggests that Tesla was merely reusing alien plans first used in Egypt. The Dendera light bulb (incandescent, not CFL or LED, mind you) is brought up again, and we get a brief recap of the Tesla segment of S05E03 “Alien Power Plants,” which already covered Tesla’s alleged connection to energy-generating obelisks, pyramid power plants, and a supposed alien world energy grid. Seriously, people: Get some new material.
After the break, we get a discussion of Tesla’s claim to have received radio signals from an unknown source, which Tesla speculated might have been from extraterrestrials on Mars or Venus. Here he was likely building on the then-popular claims of Percival Lowell that Mars had an advanced civilization, but rather than imagine Tesla was influenced by the broader scientific world around him, the show instead decides that Tesla really did have radio contact with aliens. But I thought the aliens had a direct line to his brain, so what did they need the radio and mysterious beeps for? Nothing ever makes sense on this show. The program’s experts assert that Tesla’s ET interests made him a scientific pariah and therefore his peers unfairly denied him a Nobel Prize.
The show suggests that Tesla was an ancient astronaut theorist, but his own words belie this claim. In his 1901 article on extraterrestrial communication, which the show cites, Tesla takes no position on the ancient astronaut theory in discussing his radio beeps: “How long these attempts have been going on is, of course, problematic. It is possible they have just begun. It is possible, also, that they have been going on for centuries.” The show quotes only the last sentence in order to claim Tesla as Giorgio Tsoukalos’s spiritual godfather.
Tsoukalos claims Tesla could have worked on an antigravity device because of vimanas from the Mahabharata, which he claims had antigravity powers and were the same as modern UFOs. But he is wrong and the narrator is confused and claims that these flying spaceships were depicted in that epic. The illustration shown is actually from the Vaimanika Shastra, an early twentieth century fraud that falsely claimed to be an “ancient” text channeled psychically from the past. The Mahabharata has no flying UFO-like spacecraft. It has flying chariots and floating cities, and the Ramayana even has flying palaces that transport monkeys.
After the break, we get more biography and hagiography of Tesla and his infinite beneficence, which Tzadok claims derives from ideas given to him from incorporeal beings. After the third or fourth repetition, even Jason Martell’s point-blank claim that Tesla operated “under the influence of extraterrestrials” has just become boring. We’ve heard it all before. David Wilcock tells us that Tesla’s late-life obsession with the numbers 3, 6, and 9 must relate to the pyramids of Giza, which are three, and honeycombs, which are six sided. The point, he says, is that the universe is encoded with multiples of 3. In fact, Ancient Aliens did a whole episode about Wilcock’s interest in the number 3, S06E01 “The Power of Three,” so this claim is yet another repeat. The claim hasn’t become any truer since it first aired in October. I will point out that Ancient Aliens manages to be wrong about Giza twice, once in S06E01 when it claimed that there were only three Giza pyramids, and again here when Wilcock claims there are six. There are in fact nine, three major pyramids and six satellite pyramids.
In the next segment, following another break, we finally get the TESLA DEATH RAY. Tesla claimed to have invented a particle beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft, but very little of this work survives. In fact, Tesla claimed that he never wrote down any of the plans at all—he kept them all in his head! The plans—whatever they were—died with him. The show asserts that Tesla was responsible for the so-called Philadelphia Experiment, in which a Navy vessel allegedly left this dimension and returned with the crew embedded in the ship’s metal. Even the show acknowledges this is widely believed to be a hoax. David Wilcock asserts it really happened, despite there being no missing sailors, no mangled ship… Ah, but conspiracies are really good at covering all their tracks except for those intrepid heroes like Wilcock so easily uncover. He cites “leaked documents” as proof, but fails to mention that most accounts from fringe figures assign the Philadelphia Experiment to an effort to prove theories from Albert Einstein, not anything to do with Nikola Tesla. Oh well.
After a final break this turkey comes in for a landing on the back of an Israeli laser defense system, which Childress likens to some of Tesla’s more grandiose plans. Wilcock claims that Israel’s laser beams are the same as Tesla’s particle beam death rays and that Tesla was aware of Israel’s plan through an alleged time travel device or time window he supposedly developed. The narrator suggests that the U.S. government stole Tesla’s particle beam plans and gave them to Israel seven decades later. I’m still not seeing the connection. Mark Seifer, Tesla’s biographer, calls him an avatar of space aliens and/or gods, a veritable savior. Wilcock tells us that Tesla would have been a savior who would have reversed climate change, made deserts habitable, and made all energy free. But once again the show’s lack of logic is problematic: If the all-powerful aliens gave Tesla all this “wisdom” to save us, why is it that they are so ineffective that a few FBI agents could somehow undo all their work—while also delivering it to Israel? The inconsistencies may not register beneath the soaring music and paeans to a coming technological Millennium of peace and glory—but they are there.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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