I still hate the new opening sequence, especially its invocation of the Twilight Zone by using “There is a door…” and imagery recalling Rod Serling’s title sequence. It’s not wholly inappropriate, though, since Serling was an ancient astronaut believer who hosted In Search of Ancient Astronauts, the ancestral TV special that eventually gave rise to Ancient Aliens, both being adaptations of Chariots of the Gods.
Anyway, the first segment tries to make the case that the Badlands Guardian is an intentional carving and not a natural formation, and David Childress shows up to tell us that archaeologists are “often mistaken” about what is artificial and what is natural. For no good reason, they use part of the time to give us a history of the carving of Mount Rushmore, which is a mountain carved from stone, while the Badlands Guardian is made from soil and clay. William Henry and Giorgio Tsoukalos claim that only space aliens could provide the answer. Henry says that humans could not have made a geoglyph on their own and needed aliens to do it for them, while Tsoukalos differs and says that First Nations people in Alberta carved it themselves because they were trying to signal space aliens. The show presents these mutually exclusive ideas as though they were harmonious.
The show had an expert use computer simulations to try to argue that the formation was intentionally created, and it’s interesting that the show refers to skeptical views of the Guardian as an optical illusion with the word “apophenia” (seeing patterns that don’t exist) instead of “pareidolia” (seeing familiar patterns in vague, abstract, or natural patterns). I can’t help but think that’s because the Guardian’s Wikipedia page refers to apophenia.
The second segment tries to make an argument by analogy, asking viewers to assume that the existence of geoglyphs elsewhere on Earth proves that the Guardian is an artificial geoglyph. This leads to yet another discussion of the Nazca Lines, a subject that has appeared on Ancient Aliens with depressing regularity since the show debuted a decade ago. The discussion of global geoglyphs ranges from the mundane to the nonsensical, and most of the show’s usual talking heads, including Nick Pope and Hugh Newman, try to claim that what they call geoglyphs (some of which are actually earthworks) were intended to communicate with space aliens who were looking at Earth from other galaxies. If the aliens can see a small geoglyph from that distance, they could see cities and other signs of human habitation, so this argument seems weak. The show repeats the lie that a geoglyph of a fisherman in Peru is really a space alien, a claim debunked many years ago.
The show seems to struggle with the idea that the Badlands Guardian looks like the head of a stereotypical First Nations person (the show says “Native American,” but the formation is in Canada) in profile in what looks to be a realist nineteenth century art style, which is vastly different from the style of any other geoglyph. They try to make this out to be a sign of specialness or superiority, but surely even they realize that the enormous difference suggests that they are simply seeing things.
The third segment visits Canada (well, through photos and stock footage) to view First Nations petroglyphs about a hundred miles from the Guardian. The show claims that indigenous references to any being from the sky or from a plane above the Earth is necessarily a space alien, and they believe that rock art showing any stylized human that doesn’t seem photorealistic is consequently a space alien. William Henry tells us that the “headdress” of the Guardian figure, which resembles feathers, was a helmet that functioned as an “antenna” to communicate with space aliens. He claims that shamans’ feathered headdresses are similarly antennas for tuning in to alien signals via feathers. If feathers get you alien ham radio, what must life be like for birds?
This leads to a discussion of supposed modern UFO sightings in western Canada, and William Henry says that this might suggest that “aliens have a continuing interest in this area.” Childress adds that part of western Canada must be “a portal” with an interdimensional stargate to other realms.
This show is getting stupider by the minute, and their utter refusal to even pretend to find evidence in support of their rankest speculation rankles me. You have to wonder if the space between the ears of ancient astronaut theorists is an interdimensional portal, seeing as it would otherwise be a vacuum and nature abhors a vacuum.
In the fourth segment, a computer artist claims that mapping the geoglyph onto a real human would prove that the Badlands Guardian is really someone with an elongated skull, a meaningless claim since the Guardian isn’t an intentional piece of art, nor is it intended to be proportional or in the realist style. To “prove” that the geoglyph was modeled on an alien-human hybrid, you have to move through the various stages of proof, from proving the geoglyph artificial to proving that the art style accurately represents its subject in the realist style. This whole segment is a set of stacked ethnocentric assumptions that Giorgio Tsoukalos simply can’t contemplate, despite the fact that his own towering hairstyle belies the fact that a drawing of something large atop a figure’s head necessarily implies an elongated skull.
The fifth segment returns to another old chestnut, the so-called Face on Mars—long debunked but here assumed to be an alien monument. For reasons that are never made clear, the imaging expert who “analyzed” the Badlands Guardian earlier in the show attempts to analyze the Face on Mars using blurry old Viking photos rather than more recent and higher-resolution photos. The expert alleges—bizarrely—that the difference between the 1976 photos and the more recent ones is due to “erosion” over time! For that to be true, that would mean that the face could only have been built a few decades or a century or two at most before, if it crumbled half to dust in three decades.
All of this leads to a repeat of the show’s frequent claims that Ancient Egypt had some sort of esoteric alien connection to Mars, with Martian pyramids corresponding to those of Egypt—a claim invented in 1898 when Garrett P. Serviss made it up for a novel.
The show, which previously claimed the Badlands Guardian was Native American, now claims that the Guardian is Akhenaten, the heretic pharaoh. Henry tells us that a statue of Akhenaten is “identical” to the Guardian, even though, objectively speaking, they bear no resemblance to one another in terms of facial features or physical proportions.
But points for completely voiding their entire effort to give Native Americans / First Nations people credit for something, even if it was a natural formation, to score a cheap point about Akhenaten and offhand claim that First Nations people had been subject to alien hybrid rulers from Egypt.
As this turkey comes in for a landing, we see another example of people seeing things in random shapes. Now we hear that a bunch of splotches and grooves on Mars is a face of an old man with an underbite wearing a helmet. It’s a bit cartoonish, but I guess it looks something like a person, but when Childress alleges that “we have similar structures on Mars and on Earth” because Martian humans moved to Earth, I really felt that this claim needed something more than a blurry photo of a rock that the show thinks looks like the Maya pyramids at Tikal to support that claim. In the final moments, the show asks if crop circles are modern versions of the geoglyphs, and the show simply assumes that crop circles are the work of aliens. The show also doesn’t bother to address the point that they claimed geoglyphs to be the work of human beings (well, all except Henry, who is in his own world) while they imply crop circles are made by aliens. So who is communicating with whom an why? Surely this show isn’t doing a very good job of it.
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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