The first segment describes the scientific search for earthlike exoplanets, and then the narrator describes early modern Catholic efforts to suppress the idea that other inhabited worlds existed. They falsely claim Giordano Bruno was executed for believing in space aliens, though his belief in other worlds was only a small part of the charges against him, which primarily focused on his denial of Catholic dogma about Christ. Only one of the charges dealt with the plurality of worlds doctrine. In other words, Ancient Aliens is eliding a lot. Then the segment returns to the scientific search for other earthlike planets, and they quote an estimate that 400 billion potentially habitable planets exist. The show then falsely claims that scientists deny that life beyond microbes exists elsewhere in the universe. Scientists have numerous opinions ranging from belief that Earth is the first and only planet with intelligent life to concluding that the universe is teeming with civilizations past and present.
Giorgio Tsoukalos ends up undermining his own case by emphasizing that “Earth is not unique,” which then forces us to ask how it is that the aliens chose this small, obscure planet out of 400 billion options. The segment ends with narrator Robert Clotworthy claiming the scientists are in opposition to ancient astronaut theorists over the question of whether faster than light travel across the universe is possible. The sentence structure implicitly equates the two groups.
The second segment discusses plans to send a probe to a potentially earthlike planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, some 4.24 light years away. It will take two decades for the probe to arrive. The rest of the segment explores the question of whether aliens could reach the Earth given the vast distances between the stars. The allows the show to recycle its discussion of wormholes from a previous episode, including the computer graphics from past episodes. Physicist Michaen Denin calls them “star gates” and says that wormholes are “commonly” called this, but I can’t find evidence for the use of the term in astrophysics, or really anywhere outside of science fiction and ufology. William Henry tells us that aliens whose home star went supernova escaped through a wormhole to migrate to another planet, presumably Earth.
The third segment falsely claims that ancient sites like the Giza pyramids are built to resemble the constellation of Orion’s famous belt stars. There is no evidence for this supposed connection, but even if it were real, the prominence of those stars in the night sky makes it unnecessary to hypothesize that aliens demanded such structures to commemorate their own star system—particularly since the constellations only look as they do when observed from Earth. The aliens wouldn’t think of their planet as part of a constellation any more than we think of the sun as part of some constellation viewed from Betelgeuse.
This leads to a discussion of Zecharia Sitchin’s fictional planet Nibiru and its gold-mining, blood-drinking inhabitants. The segment recycles the worst of Sitchin’s false ideas, born of his own eccentric mistranslation of Mesopotamian texts. The show purposely misidentifies these texts as “Sumerian,” following Sitchin in conflating the many different cultures of Mesopotamia over thousands of years under the banner of Sumerian. After 43 years of repeated debunking, is it really worth pointing out that there is no scientific evidence that an inhabited “wandering planet” with a 3,600-year periodic orbit that comes near to Earth. The show discusses then cites a Cal Tech claim that there is a ninth planet orbiting the sun to allege that this planet is “exactly” as Sitchin described. Except that it isn’t. If it exists, it would be ten times the size of Earth and take 20,000 years to orbit the sun and is 20 times farther from the Sun than Pluto. Aliens would not find much warmth, nor a free ride to Earth.
The fourth segment repeats Sitchin’s false claim that space aliens want to mine Earth’s gold to repair their atmosphere, and it then discusses the actual science behind asteroids depositing Earth’s precious metals at the dawn of the planet. The show speculates that humans will soon mine asteroids for additional precious metals, thus making it likely that space aliens traveled across the universe to do the same, presumably because they don’t have asteroids or other planets closer to themselves, I guess? The various talking heads allege that aliens used Earth as a rest stop to refuel their hydrogen-powered flying saucers. Amazing the way they can intuit such things with no evidence whatsoever. It’s almost like they’re just making things up.
The fifth segment speculates about the effect that differences between Earth and exoplanets, such as different strength of gravity and different amounts of light, would have on any life that evolved on these other planets. They use the speculation to justify the appearance of Grey aliens as an evolutionary adaptation to high gravity and low light, even though the Grey aliens were only invented after the TV-inspired Betty and Barney Hill abduction fantasy, gradually developing over the next decade from initially diverse but later convergent accounts mutually influenced from one another and the Hill account. The show then alleges that fish gods were amphibians from ocean-covered planets, but the show forgets that more than half of the so-called “fish gods” they cited actually had snake tails, not fish tails, that in a previous episode they had speculated were sea-serpents. Again, with real fish existing here on Earth, there is no reason to speculate that actual fish-tailed aliens slithered across the Earth in order to explain why ancient people would draw pictures of fish.
The final segment discusses efforts to locate intelligent life on other worlds, and David Childress speculates that finding alien life will fundamentally alter our societies and religions, unintentionally giving the game away. Ancient astronaut theorists are looking for ways to overthrow social structures they feel are unfair to them, ennobling themselves as the heirs to aliens, the prophets and priests of semi-divine mediators between humanity and the cosmos.
And that’s a wrap of Ancient Aliens for 2019. I’d cheer, but this, the longest season ever of Ancient Aliens, and the lowest-rated, won’t go away for very long. The History Channel announced that new episodes of the series will return in January. To be honest, I don’t know if I can keep doing this. When the seasons were 10-12 episodes per year, it was fun to critique. At 22 episodes, it’s increasingly a thankless chore. I’m not sure whether the January episodes will be considered a new season, but the new normal of the show airing year-round instead of one three-month season of the year taxes even my superhuman patience.
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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