Indeed, the two-hour episode, billed as part of the History Channel’s “History’s Mysteries Week,” exists and is airing on a Monday night for no other reason than to serve as part of a promotional push for the upcoming launch of History’s Project Blue Book drama series, which Time magazine considered clunky but watchable and TV Insider’s Matt Roush panned as having “little surprise or suspense.” Good to know that my take was in line with professional critics. I am surprised, however, that History didn’t commission Ancient Aliens to explore Blue Book, except perhaps for fear of outshining the flawed drama.
Anyway, given the familiar nature of most of the claims in this episode, and the relative lack of ancient astronaut material amidst the science, you’ll forgive me for hitting only the highlights of a punishingly long two-hour episode.
The show begins by discussing the push for private commercial space flight and the launch of Donald Trump’s Space Force, which the show likens to Starfleet Academy from Star Trek. Physicist Michio Kaku embarrasses himself yet again by contributing glowing predictions about the wonders of future space travel to this program, which actively undermines the very science he purports to popularize in the media. Panspermia advocate Chandra Wickramasinghe makes an appearance intercut with Kaku to defend the idea that space aliens likely inhabit many planets across the universe.
We are then treated to another potted history of Zecharia Sitchin’s claims about the Anunnaki, the anonymous chorus of gods in Mesopotamian lore, which Sitchin saw as space aliens. All the usual talking heads endorse this idea, and not one of them seems to be the least familiar with the actual Mesopotamian primary sources referencing the collective of these gods.
A chunk of the half-hour describes the effort to colonize the Moon and Mars and the challenges thereof.
Afterward, they begin repeating material about the role of Mars in the human imagination, from its early association with gods of war (because of its bloody red color) to pop culture depictions of Martians in movies. David Childress tells us that our love of Mars can be explained by Carl Jung’s collective unconscious, and William Henry falsely alleges that human memory “goes into our genome” and therefore Martian love is encoded in our DNA because we came from Mars in ancient times, or experienced something Martian, or whatever. This claim, false though it is—since DNA doesn’t change within an individual in response to knowledge or travel—blatantly contradicts the frequent Ancient Aliens claim that human knowledge is beamed into our heads by space aliens using the Akashic Record. This is especially galling since History chose to rerun the Akashic Record episode immediately prior to this one. It’s almost as though the episodes have been chosen to comment on the inconsistent, slapdash nature of the producers’ spaghetti-against-the-wall approach to documentary filmmaking.
The rest of the half-hour profiles the people who have volunteered to travel to Mars on Elon Musk’s dime to die there building the first Martian colony.
After a discussion of the scientific effort to look for traces of Martian life (though the show elides the concept of “life”—likely microorganisms, if really there—with intelligent life), the second half-hour starts in on repeating the show’s earlier claims about prehistoric Martian civilization. We see a number of NASA photographs, most seen in previous episodes, that men like Mike Bara and Richard Hoagland have interpreted as showing petrified remnants of a lost civilization. They are, of course, just rocks that happen to bear ambiguous shapes that the imaginative might see as buildings, statues, etc.
The show then explores the suggestion that Earth life originated from Martian life that traveled to Earth via a space rock. This is a possibility, but one that is unproven. Wickramasinghe says that it is a “travesty of common sense” to imagine that life began on Earth because Earth is too small and insignificant. But Mars is smaller and less significant than Earth, and it is problematic for the idea that life is widespread in the universe to argue that it is also almost impossible to start on its own. Either life is easy to begin and can pop up anywhere, or the universe is unlikely to be filled with countless space aliens since it seems unlikely that even the most prolifically onanistic aliens could seed the whole universe with their space sperm, given the vast distances involved.
The narrative goes on to tell us that we will need to mine asteroids and other planets for mineral resources, which natural leads to a discussion of Sitchin’s claim that the Anunnaki used humans as slaves to mine gold. Jason Martell falsely asserts that the Hebrew seven days of creation are a corruption of the Seven Tablets of Creation, which he asserts are described in the Atra-Hasis epic, though I imagine he is referring to the seven tablets of the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian (not Sumerian) creation epic. David Childress tells us that hundreds of shallow pits in Peru were evidence of a “mining probe” traveling up the mountain on which they were dug, even though these small holes are irregular and uneven, having nothing in common with machine-bored holes, unless the aliens were drunk or have an unimaginably complex machine, or one that happens to work identically to somewhat uncoordinated humans.
The half-hour concludes with a discussion of the history of Mars and the water it used to have, which carries over across the top of the hour into the second hour of the show, which begins with a discussion of terraforming Mars to be earthlike. This is of no interest to me since it has nothing to do with ancient astronauts. The show asks if space aliens terraformed the Earth “centuries” ago. The evidence, though, isn’t relevant to the claim, citing (from one of Erich von Däniken’s older and more racist books discussing “wild Indians”) an Amazonian myth of the culture-hero Bep-Kororoti teaching the art of civilization. This has nothing to do with terraforming, and indeed Childress’s claim a Peruvian god wears a space suit actively contradicts the idea that the god terraformed the Earth. After all, he needs a space suit to walk on the Earth. The suit, incidentally, is really a beekeeper’s suit, as we learned in reviewing a third-season episode of the show.
Another segment repeats material from episodes from 2015 and this year about robots in order to discuss how self-replicating robots could colonize the galaxy where organic intelligence would not be able to travel due to concerns about radiation and the time needed to traverse long distances. Erich von Däniken discusses the bronze giant Talos from Greek mythology, which I have explained more than once. Talos was a sun-god who became identified with his own cast-bronze statue, imagined to be imbued with divine power. It was not a robot.
The remainder of the half-hour discusses the impact of Mars’s lesser gravity on human physiology and Kaku asks if we should genetically modify ourselves to adapt to space environments. For some bizarre reason, this involves discussing recent claims that the wooly mammoth will soon be resurrected thanks to genetic modification of elephant DNA with forty-five sections of mammoth DNA. (It’s worth noting that the ersatz creature would not be genetically identical to its ancient namesake and would be more of lookalike recreation than a resurrection.) The show asks if space aliens genetically modified humans, though there is little effort made to connect this to space travel. We then get a repeat of material about cyborgs from the earlier robot-themed episodes, suggesting that humans will make use of robotic bodies to house their brains as they traverse the universe and conquer planets. Since they’ve covered this material before, let’s just stipulate that they are basically describing Daleks.
The final half-hour started five minutes late because History packed in extra commercials to extend the runtime five minutes longer than two hours. It begins with a discussion of claims that humans evolved on another planet. Mike Bara cites sunburns and the need for sunglasses as proof and alleges that our circadian rhythm is attuned to the length of a Martian day. Another talking head claims that our fat forms best at Martian temperatures. The claims are laughable, if for no other reason than many of them are geared to white Northern European physiology. People with brown or black skin—the original colors of humankind—don’t typically burn. White skin is a recent mutation.
Another segment alleges that the asteroid belt used to be a planet (often called Phaeton) that exploded, a popular claim in fringe circles, but not one that astronomers believe there is evidence to support. The show asks whether humans evolved on Mars and moved to Earth when Phaeton exploded, and von Däniken claims that mythological stories of wars in Heaven (e.g., Satan vs. Michael, Zeus vs. the Titans, etc.) are retellings of the explosion of this planet and the descent of humans from Mars. It doesn’t make much sense to be, but whatever—a planet exploding is the same as gods and angels fighting in the sky and landing on Earth, right?
As the show pushes toward a conclusion, it explains that humans might go extinct if a large asteroid hits Earth, thus necessitating off-world colonies to keep humanity safe from extinction. This leads to questions of a conspiracy by billionaires and/or government to create an off-world colony. The show links this to Trump’s Space Force, but doesn’t quite explain how, and Nick Pope suggests that private-sector billionaires are in charge of creating a colony for their selected group of people to save from a “crisis” on Earth by sending them to space. The show asks if the U.S. government is secretly briefing billionaires on the types of aliens they will encounter on Mars and how to deal with them. Giorgio Tsoukalos suggests that if humans arrive on Mars and find ancient ruins, it will be the “closing of a gigantic circle,” which is a bit odd since he routinely claims that Earth does not have such structures, with the possible exception of Puma Punku, and in the rerun airing before this show, we heard that the aliens might not have actually come to Earth but rather beamed their thoughts to Earth with psychic rays.
In the last minutes of the show, they introduce the claim that human skulls have changed shape slightly over the past century, and the show extrapolates from this that if humans go to space they will evolve into Grey space aliens, a claim that we heard in past episodes. The show has difficultly deciding if the aliens are really time-traveling future humans or ancient space ancestors from which we devolved, and the narrator says that ancient astronaut theorists are “divided” on the issue. Well, they aren’t consistent on anything else, so why start now?
The episode peters out with a few paeans to the idea that humans desire to travel into space (maybe many do, but I don’t) and that we “aren’t the pinnacle of creation” and will be knocked down a peg when we encounter superior aliens. There is probably something profound in the show’s S&M philosophy, openly pining to be submissive to dominant daddy aliens, or otherwise to resurrect the patriarchal supernatural of Abrahamic religion, but after two hours of this crap, I am too tired to give it much thought.
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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