This episode at least attempts to find a way out of the pandemic’s restrictions on travel, although it’s really just a slightly different framework for what in sitcoms we’d call a clip show—those unpleasant episodes where characters all gather on one set and reminisce, remembering as 90-second scenes from past episodes pad out the money-saving outing. I can’t guarantee without checking that the clips are literally pasted from past episodes or if the producers have simply recreated them with new voiceovers, but the information is exactly the same. I will give them credit for one thing: Compared to the rapid pace of early seasons, they have consistently found new ways to slow the show down and present fewer topics and less information per hour each season.
Giorgio Tsoukalos, Travis Scott, and David Childress stick around the conference table used for the Shatner episode, apparently filming this episode after Shatner left the room. Tsoukalos takes Shatner’s chair and leads a confusing, unstructured discussion of space travel that lauds private space exploration because—big surprise for a show appealing to old white men—it’s free from government regulation and public accountability. “They can do whatever they want!” Scott enthuses.
Childress is not good at extemporaneous speaking.
A chunk of a 2018 episode about Russian cosmism is pasted in. Returning to the conference room, Childress leads into another clip from a 2016 episode referencing the Salyut-7 UFO sighting.
After the break, Tsouaklos, Scott, and Childress—the world’s least sexy throuple—interview an astronaut who tells them that he thought he saw a UFO in space, but it was just lights from South American fishing vessels. Then we hear from Buzz Aldrin in clips from previously recorded footage about his supposed UFO sightings in space. Additional claims that astronauts saw unidentified lights or objects are presented, though the astronauts themselves do not claim they are alien spacecraft.
The next segment continues the discussion of a NASA conspiracy to suppress UFO reports from astronauts, all of which boil down to arguing that anything in space that wasn’t immediately identified must be suspicious, and when it was identified must be a cover-up and a lie. Some of the footage is quite old, from episodes I either didn’t watch or don’t remember, especially since Edgar Mitchell, treated here as though in contemporary interview, died in 2016.
In the succeeding segment, the Three Stooges blather on about humanity’s DNA-driven destiny to explore space, and then we get more claims of strange lights seen by astronauts, this time aboard Skylab, with the Stooges attempting to rebut the official explanation that the red light seen aboard the space station was a reflection of a light inside on the window. Some old footage from what I think was a 2012 episode is presented with commentary I believe is the same as a 2018 episode, though I am not interested in sitting through it all to check.
The next segment discusses the potential for life on Mars. Tsoukalos calls the potential for bacterial life on Mars disappointing—“big whoop!”—and instead longs for humanoids that “look like you and me,” presumably white men. Bits from earlier Mars episodes are recycled, but truthfully, they’ve done so many episodes about Mars that I couldn’t pick out which ones were strip-mined for this segment. The show discusses how humans might live on Mars before going down the well of claiming that various rocky outcroppings on Mars might be alien monuments. The Stooges debate whether humans came from Mars or are destined to colonize Mars, or both. They agree, in a very depressing way, that humanity can’t survive without finding new planets to exploit for resources. Their conclusions are weirdly Darwinist for people who don’t believe in evolution, arguing that survival requires colonization and extinction will follow if we do not adapt. Of course, their view is teleological, speaking repeatedly about destiny without ever quite explaining what power has decreed such a destiny.
The Stooges end the show by discussing Edgar Rice Burroughs and the three all agree that they were heavily influenced by early- and middle-twentieth-century science fiction stories. They say such stories provide templates for their efforts. Who would have guessed? Oh, right. Me. At least they’re being honest about it now.
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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