For those of you keeping score at home, the History Channel renumbered the seasons of Ancient Aliens, breaking up some of the longer middle seasons into multiples for DVD release and streaming. So what should have been season nine is now magically season 11. That’s why the episode numbering has changed. If Ancient Aliens can rewrite history at will, surely they can rewrite their number of seasons they’ve been on the air at will.
Tonight’s episode of Ancient Aliens (S11E02), “Destination Mars,” covers familiar ground—quite familiar in fact. It was only in February of 2014 that Ancient Aliens ran pretty much the same episode, but back then it was called “Aliens and the Red Planet” (old number S06E16, new numbering S07E05). The recycling of old material coincides with the Cartoon Network restoring Looney Tunes to its schedule this past week, which brought back to my TV Marvin the Martian and his infamous Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. Compared to Ancient Aliens, Looney Tunes was practically a documentary.
In a change of pace, we open with a science fiction imagining of what it might be like when NASA sends a crew to Mars a decade from now, with commentary from Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon. Onetime Discover magazine editor Stephen Petranek, the author of a book about colonizing Mars and current head of a biotech and “wellness” conference series, also takes advantage of the Ancient Aliens platform to shill for his book, even though science and pseudoscience ought to be at odds. They talk to some other people, including a physicist, a biologist, a candidate to travel to Mars as part of the Mars One project, etc. The segment focuses on how we would colonize Mars and eventually terraform it, though it has little or nothing to do with ancient astronauts.
To try to make it connect, William Henry alleges that the Book of Genesis describes aliens terraforming the Earth by creating an atmosphere (the firmament) followed by plants, animals, etc. George Noory concurs, but adds that there is a real God, too. David Childress repeats almost exactly what all of the earlier pundits already said because he’s always a day late and a dollar short.
The second segment starts by recapping recent news about whether there is flowing water underground on Mars. It then falls back in time to repeat information about the 1996 announcement of microbial life in a meteorite that came from Mars, a claim later disputed with the argument that such findings were either not actual microbes or the result of contamination from the Earth. The evidence is still uncertain, but the show has no trouble declaring the microbes Martian, followed by a version of the panspermia hypothesis that would suggest Earth life began on Mars before meteorites fell to Earth. While this might be a scientific hypothesis, Ariel Bar Tzadok shows up to tell us that the Watchers from the Book of Enoch lived on Mars and threw rocks filled with Martian bacteria to the Earth. You see, the Fallen Angels were, according to Jonathan Young, extremely sexy giants “at least 10 feet tall” and came, as William Henry said, from the fifth sphere of Dante’s heaven, Mars. Someone has been reading my blog! As I discussed back in their earlier Mars episode, Dante’s geocentric worldview placed angels on each of the crystalline spheres in which the planets were embedded. This, as I have written in the past, is the origin of Theosophy’s idea that the Ascended Masters lived on various spheres, and thus of the ancient astronaut theory that is now reading its own origins back into itself as confirmation of its truth!
There is yet another ridiculous claim: They say that humans born on Mars will be taller and skinnier than Earthlings due to lesser gravity, so that’s why Fallen Angels from Mars were tall, thin, and beautiful! Note to Ancient Aliens: The Fallen Angels are not the Nephilim, so they were not (necessarily) giants. (It really depends on whether you subscribe to degeneration theory, which is another extra-canonical Bible question altogether.) Similarly, they are not especially thin and “spindly.” They have confused medieval Gothic art, with its stylized and elongated forms, for ancient facts.
The third segment describes the long trench on Mars called the Valles Marineris, and it speculates on how the massive canyon formed. A 1974 claim that the valley was blasted out by a giant cosmic lightning bolt is given as a plausible idea, though scientists disagree. Giorgio Tsoukalos uses this claim to argue that aliens have thunder-weapons powerful enough to blast a planet because Indo-European myths represent lightning as a weapon of the storm god and imagine it as much more powerful than it is. The Indo-European myths are pretty clearly derived from observations of actual lightning, but the show prefers to imagine that the myths follow a technological reality. We then get a repeat of John Brandenburg’s claim that Mars underwent nuclear catastrophe. We’ve heard this at least three times on the show, not to mention on competing programs like Unsealed: Alien Files. It isn’t getting any more correct through repetition, and to date mainstream scientists continue to doubt that the xenon-129 on Mars is anything but natural, nor do they concur with his claims that the moon is full of alien bases, or that he alone has reconciled gravitation, quantum physics, and general relativity.
This segment looks at images of rocks on Mars and asks us to imagine that the random shapes were intentional sculptures resembling those found on Earth. Not one of them is convincing, and even the narrator admits that pareidolia could be behind the sightings. Joseph White, a Photoshop expert, believes that by enhancing the NASA photos of Mars he can restore the images and reveal details not present in the original. The problem is that sharpening images, as he knows, doesn’t add new information that is already in the image but rather uses a computer to create new pixels based on algorithms and assumptions. White, in selecting how to sharpen and enhance the contrast of a photograph, unconsciously biases the final result in favor of his assumption. The segment also gives Mike Bara time to speculate on whether the Martian region called Cydonia is a ruined city designed to reflect the Pleiades, but the show presents no evidence for accuracy or astronomical alignment. Bara only says that the alleged pyramids of Cydonia “basically” look like the Pleiades. Even a cursory examination of a graphic created by Sitchin Studies believer Wayne Herschel shows that the alignment is both inaccurate and based on selectively choosing particular rocky outcroppings to call pyramids and which stars to declare relevant.
A random shadow in a NASA rover photo from Mars that sparked conspiracy theories because it sort of resembled a human form is declared not just evidence of aliens but proof of a NASA conspiracy. The conspiracy theory angle repeats material from earlier Ancient Aliens episodes, including “The NASA Connection” (S04E05) and “NASA’s Secret Agenda” (S08E02/S10E02). It repeats pretty much all of the conspiracy theories about Werner von Braun from the latter episode and concludes that von Braun planned secret missions to Mars that the general public isn’t allowed to know about.
This segment led into a promotional advertisement for Ancient Aliens: The Game, in which we are invited to “abduct primitive humans,” “build ancient civilizations,” and “play today.” The whiplash I get from the contrast between accusing NASA and the U.S. government of unfathomable evil in a vast conspiracy to oppress all humanity and an invitation to enjoy the same conspiracy theories for fun makes my head hurt. There is probably an academic thesis in there about how it is possible to both believe yourself under siege from evil aliens and an oppressive government and to treat that belief as recreation, but as we approach 10 PM Eastern Time and the end of the episode, I am a bit too sleepy to puzzle it out right now.
The final segment discusses Elon Musk’s optimistic claims that the for-profit Space-X will take us to Mars, and the various talking heads suggest that we must colonize Mars to protect humanity from the horrific disaster that is always coming but never quite arriving in ancient astronaut lore. This time, it’s an asteroid that will “inevitably” hit the Earth at some point between now and an unknown future. According to the talking heads, Mars is where we can go to escape when Earth becomes unlivable due to various disasters either of our own making or from above. It’s almost tempting to see the all-white cast advocating flight to a gated community on another planet as a reflection of recent politics projected into space, but any unconscious recognition of the cultural resonance of select groups escaping to another planet while the rest of us burn is too far beneath their conscious understanding.
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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