Last night Josh Gates unveiled the final episode in his four-part effort to find extraterrestrials, and it involved him marking the seventieth anniversary of the Roswell Incident with a visit to the New Mexico site. It also tied together the previous episodes by providing a scientific analysis of the so-called evidence collected and teased in previous episodes but saved for this, the finale. As with previous episodes, it was more talk than action, and like every cable show, it had about 10 minutes of content in an hour-long episode.
The first segment follows a professor’s efforts to use a balloon to find extraterrestrial lifeforms floating in the upper atmosphere. A preliminary test indicates that a small microbe-sized particle is an extraterrestrial lifeform that floated its way to Earth. There is, however, no clear evidence to prove it, since the particle could be from Earth, and while the professor says it is too big to have floated up on its own, frankly, it seems much more likely that the particles came from Earth than that the professor finds alien life with almost every balloon test.
Gates then meets with a MUFON investigator on the Oklahoma-Arkansas border to investigate a modern UFO sighting. Gates gushes over the “official MUFON uniform”—a dumb ballcap—and he meets with a family of Ozark hill folk named Murphy whose three members saw some glowing lights and what seemed like a spotlight hovering over the hills. Since there is no reason to connect glowing lights to space aliens except through science fiction fantasies, this segment, and its mandatory night vision tramp through the woods, seems like it will be another waste of time. But the crew manage to shoot a briefly visible bright light, but absent any visual cues, there is no way to evaluate how large it was or how fast it was moving. Similarly, there is no way to determine whether the light is the same as those the Murphy family saw. The segment simply drops without an effort to evaluate it. (Unbeknownst to me while watching this show, the claims are a small selection of the wild stories the Murphy family tells.)
About a third of the way through the show, Gates visits Roswell, and he tours the various businesses “dedicated to making money off the crash.” The tour involves the patented bemused Gates visit to various bizarre attractions, and Gates shows himself as the grand marshal of the annual UFO parade. The local color, however, lasts less than two minutes before we cut to commercial and prepare to “investigate” the long-debunked claim that the weather balloon that crashed at Roswell was really a UFO, a claim that on its surface makes little sense since the first version of the story, reported by rancher W. W. “Mac” Brazel, referred only to foil-covered paper held together with sticks, like a kite. This is a good description of a balloon, but a bad description of a spacecraft.
Gates does his viewers a disservice by claiming to meet a “levelheaded” researcher only to have it be Ancient Aliens contributor Nick Pope, the British ufologist who makes his living promoting UFO sightings and has a financial interest in perpetuating debunked tales. In a reenactment of the Al Capone vault incident, Pope and Gates dramatically cut through a lock in an old Air Force hangar side room and say that they are the first people in generations to see inside the room where the aliens might have been kept. Guess what? It was empty, and Pope admits that he is not convinced that the Roswell Incident involved an alien spaceship at all.
Gates then meets with UFO researcher Kevin Randle in order to determine whether it is possible to enhance the famous photograph of the weather balloon wreckage (the fake wreckage staged by the government to cover up the real and classified spy balloon) to read the text on a piece of paper held in one of the military officers’ hands. In the past, researchers have claimed to see in the text references to bodies and “wreckage,” so the new analysis Travel Channel ponied up for ran a small chance of revealing a government secret that the military would have to be assumed to be dumb enough to leave in plain sight for everyone who was in the room at the time. The results are underwhelming. The analysis reveals that most of the text is illegible, and that which can be read offers only dull prose of no particular value: “and the viewing of the g… connected…”. The importance of the analysis is that it contradicts the fantasy that the line reads “victims of the wreckage.”
The reading of another line finds a word that might be “rise” or “disc.” Big deal. The military itself called the object carried by the balloon a “disc,” as it did in reporting the crash to the FBI, so this means nothing other than consistent with every other reference to the material the balloon was floating into the sky.
The rest of the memo was illegible.
The final minutes of the hour attempt to evaluate the evidence collected earlier in the series, but the analysis is undercut by the analysts being Gates’s own director of photography and paranormal investigator Ben Hansen, late of the Syfy channel show Fact or Faked. The UFO videos show in previous episodes turn out to be either misidentified terrestrial lights or hoaxes. The video of a light in the sky that Gates’s crew took in Chile produced no definitive result, and the Ozark light also admitted no explanation, or so they say. Neither do the lights suggest alien spacecraft. Some B-roll the crew shot on Easter Island contains a bright flash of light that the men attribute to a UFO, though other explanations were possible.
The “Giant” bones from Easter Island uncovered in episode 2 were—surprise!—human bones of normal size.
No other results were provided, but Gates concludes that “the world’s brightest minds” have concluded that alien life almost certainly exist. Gates finishes by contradicting himself yet again and saying that he disagrees with ancient astronaut theorists and believes aliens have not visited the Earth. This is not what he said in the after show following episode 2, nor what he told Jimmy Church in a radio interview before episode 3. But you take what you can get on cable, even if it involved wasting four episodes only to conclude that there was never a reason to go hunting for aliens on Earth in the first place.
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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