This makes it all the more exasperating that the show creates its cultural footprint through repeating its own threadbare past episodes and ideas over and over again. This fourteenth season premiere is no different, returning to the well of Antarctic mysteries explored in episodes like Season 11’s “Pyramids of Antarctica” and scattered segments throughout the show’s run.
I can’t say that I like the new opening for season 14, which definitively states “We are not alone. We have never been alone.” This seems quite at odds with the show’s pretended notion that it is just asking questions, as Robert Clotworthy said in an interview earlier this year. On the plus side, the new title card is handsomely rendered, though the new circular addition above the traditional Ancient Aliens logo is too reminiscent of the aesthetics of Stargate for me.
As we open the episode, we learn of the mystery of cosmic rays erupting from the ice in Antarctica, something that was a big news story last fall when scientists suggested that a hitherto unknown particle was responsible. The show drops the subject as soon as it introduced it and instead moves on to an interview between Linda Moulton Howe and “Brian,” a Navy officer who requested anonymity in order to describe his alleged service in Antarctica in 1990s, when he claims to have witnessed a series of small flying saucers. There is no way to corroborate or evaluate the story, so it remains nothing but hearsay. The narrator asks if the 1995 or 1996 UFO sighting is “connected” to the 2018 cosmic ray discovery, but the show chooses not to make any sort of logical argument and instead lets the half-question serve as innuendo.
The second segment starts by looking at photographs of a hole in the ground in Antarctica and an oblong lump on an island near Antarctica. The hole they call an entrance to an alien base, though it’s just a hole. And the oblong object they call an alien spacecraft, though it appears to be a piece of ice or rock that had broken and slid off the nearby mountain, with smaller pieces continuing past the larger body, creating the so-called “skid marks” the proceed from it, as geographers noted last year. (Side note: I’m proud of myself for reaching that conclusion before I looked it up and found out that the experts agreed!) After this, “Brian” tells us a story about a “restricted” area in Antarctica that high-ranking officials allegedly tried to keep hidden because it contained a hole that might lead to a UFO base in one of the warm caves discovered the ice. The theme seems to be halfway between At the Mountains of Madness and Who Goes There?, the novella that inspired The Thing from Another World and The Thing. To that end, the existence of Lovecraft’s story of ancient Antarctic aliens, and Edgar Allan Poe’s similar Narrative of A. Gordon Pym, with its secret Antarctic civilization, belies the show’s claim that the idea of aliens in Antarctica dates back to the Nazis.
The third segment returns to a disturbingly frequent Ancient Aliens theme, the fetishization of the Nazis. Here, Michael Salla, Bill Birnes, and David Childress praise the Nazis for allegedly using psychics to locate caverns under Antarctica where they created large bases. This is a sad segment because the story of Hitler’s Antarctica UFO super-base was created and popularized by German-Canadian Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel, who later admitted to Skeptic magazine that he had made it all up. (It was based on UFO-free rumors from the 1940s, found in the book Hitler Vivo by Ladislas Szabó, that Hitler had escaped Germany in a submarine and was hiding in Antarctica.) The story gained traction thanks to “Esoteric Hitlerist” Miguel Serrano, who introduced it to the ancient astronaut theory in his books. David Childress repeats lies he has told before about the Nazis and Admiral Robert Byrd fighting UFOs in Antarctica. I covered this when he told it on the show the first time, back in season 11. It’s depressing to see Ancient Aliens once again fetishizing Nazis and relying on Neo-Nazi propaganda as evidence of space aliens. On the other hand, the History Channel’s core viewer probably became over-excited imagining Nazis and aliens waiting beneath Antarctica to conquer the world.
The fourth segment begins with the Piri Reis map and alleged, falsely, that the sixteenth century map depicts an ice-free Antarctica, a claim popularized by Charles Hapgood. But as scholars have known for decades, the segment of the map identified by Hapgood as “Antarctica” was in fact the southern part of South America, bent to fit the shape of the skin on which it was drawn. While the talking heads repeat Hapgood’s claim that the map depicts Antarctica without its ice, researchers have proved several times before that there is nothing accurate about the coastline if Antarctica truly had no ice. And just for shits and giggles, I’ll note that the producers of the show couldn’t even copy from Hapgood correctly. Instead of highlighting the segment of the map Hapgood identified as Antarctica, they instead claimed that the part of the map depicting Brazil was Antarctica.
This leads to the show accepting, bizarrely, Hapgood’s bonkers claim that plate tectonics did not shift the continents over millions of years as science claimed but in a matter of days or weeks and therefore Antarctica was located in a tropical latitude within relatively recent times.
The fifth segment returns to “Brian,” who tells another story, this time about terrified scientists attempting to escape some unknown eldritch horror in Antarctica that Brian was not privy to. Brian claims to have heard from a scientist that they had discovered an “entity” in the Antarctic ice. After this, we hear from “Spartan 1,” another anonymous Navy officer, that the Navy discovered a large octagonal stone structure whose hallways were covered with hieroglyphic carvings from an ancient alien civilization. Ugh. This episode really is At the Mountains of Madness crossed with Who Goes There?, a novella that was itself possibly inspired by its author, John W. Campbell, having read Madness when it was published not long before he wrote his novella.
The sixth segment returns to another old Ancient Aliens chestnut, the Great Flood of Noah and the antediluvian civilization that supposedly existed before it. Michael Salla alleges that space aliens lived in Atlantis, which was Antarctica, and he claims falsely that Plato’s description of Atlantis sinking beneath the waves and leaving behind a giant mud pit was actually evidence that Atlantis was Antarctica, was flash frozen, and floated away to the South Pole. Based on his allegations, it would seem that he never read Plato. William Henry tells us that there “could” be stone constructions hidden beneath the ice, but gosh darn it, we just can’t get beneath the ice.
Following this episode of Ancient Aliens, the History Channel launched Unidentified, the series about the U.S. government efforts to investigate UFOs produced in conjunction with To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science. You will forgive me if I chose not to review the show since it focuses on recent UFO sightings and government efforts to examine them, subjects that are beyond my interest in ancient astronauts and UFO pop culture. My interest in To the Stars stems from (a) Tom DeLonge’s use of the ancient astronaut theory and prior claims that UFOs are really manifestations of demons and (b) his company’s connections to Hal Puthoff and Jacques Vallée, who have also pursued ancient astronaut and demonology approaches to UFOs, sometimes in conjunction with the U.S. government or its contractors. Modern UFOs do not really interest me much except for when they connect to my usual topics. Many people will be discussing the show this weekend, with more knowledge of the subject than me, and if the show has something interesting to say about one of our topics, I will write about it. Otherwise, I do not see the need to spend my Friday night with Hal Puthoff and his demon-hunting friends as they remake themselves as serious elder statesmen, serious thinkers, and bad-ass advocates for truth. Plus, the show was slow, pompous, and boring.
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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