Review of the History Channel's "Time Beings: Extreme Time Travel Conspiracies"
Can you make an inexpensive knockoff of Ancient Aliens entirely out of recycled content, stock footage, interviews with deluded lunatics, and internet rumors? If you answered “yes,” then you are a History Channel executive.
The History Channel aired a new special Friday night after their flagship pseudohistory program Ancient Aliens. Time Beings: Extreme Time Travel Conspiracies attempts to ape Ancient Aliens in a number of ways, most notably the use of a sound-alike narrator who resembles Robert Clothworthy, the voice of Ancient Aliens, not just in tenor but also in intonation and pacing. The show also makes use of talking heads and rhetorical questions to speculate on the possibility of time travel just as that other show discusses aliens. The opening credits are modeled on those of Ancient Aliens, with a very similar typeface, albeit less polished and apparently quite cheaply assembled. As with Ancient Aliens, the program is composed almost entirely of stock footage, though this show is cheaper and relies on still photographs where Ancient Aliens either buys or commissions video.
The talking heads for the show include conspiracy theorists and fringe figures, such as Jimmy Church, alongside self-described futurists, just like on Ancient Aliens. Also present is Ben McGee from NatGeo’s Chasing UFOs, now providing one of only skeptical perspectives in the show (despite heavy editing). The show never goes into the epistemological and philosophical issues surrounding time travel (though MGee discussed them, some of which leaks through in truncated and edited form) and instead signals its plan to ask whether space aliens and UFOs are “really” time travelers.
According to Larry Flaxman, a paranormal researcher who appears on the show, the one-off special was intended as the pilot for a future time travel series but has been sitting on the shelf for almost a year, likely due to the closure of the H2 channel, where such programming once aired.
The program’s “evidence” for time travel is essentially a bunch of internet rumors, punctuated with “believers say yes” and references to “time travel theory.” The first time traveler is the alleged “hipster” from the 1940s, and the show at least acknowledges that the “hipster” isn’t a time traveler. The second time traveler is the woman from a Charlie Chaplin movie who is holding a portable hearing aid, but which Church alleges is a cell phone. Later, they will ask whether photographs of long dead people who resemble modern celebrities prove that people like Jay-Z are time travelers.
As with Ancient Aliens, the show focuses in on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and here we are treated to its possibility for creating a “time phone” that would allow people to make phone calls to the past or future. The show then uses the exact same argument from the preceding hour of Ancient Aliens in which they argue that smartphones, being more powerful than the NASA computers used for the moon landing, therefore imply that future technology will advance to the level of time travel. Jimmy Church alleges that the U.S. government is in a conspiracy to hide their own use of time travel, centered in the Pentagon’s DARPA.
Having brought government conspiracies into play, naturally the show moves toward UFOs and government cover-ups of the same. This program speculates that the Roswell “UFO” crash was not, as the military maintains, a weather balloon but rather a time ship something like Rip Hunter’s Waverider on Legends of Tomorrow. “If UFOs exist,” talking head Alex Lightman says, “it is much more likely they are time travelers.” His qualifications for pontificating on time travel are remarkably light, given that his experience and interests are in running minor tech companies and promoting “social innovation.” I can’t see that he has ever done any significant research into the field the show presents him as an expert on. The more he talks, the nuttier he gets, until he is ranting about time travelers manipulating the “timeline” and providing us with computer technology as a “gift” in the 1940s. (Did he not know it was all aliens? That, after all, is what Ancient Aliens just finished telling us!)
In his PR material, Lightman claims that he produced a “national innovation plan” for the Obama Administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. What is wrong with our government? Can’t they keep the complete lunatics out? (In 2011, he merely claimed that Obama’s OSTP director requested a document from him, not that it was an official U.S. government action. At any rate, the resulting paper does not seem to have been published, and it turned out to be a celebration of the imaginative power of science fiction, if the white paper that shares the same name is identical with it.) He also claims to have presented to the OMB, the Defense Department, the UN, and NATO. While I can’t find any proof that he actually worked with the White House (the Office’s website is silent on him and his book), I did find that he has been delivering speculative quack-ish presentations to various official and semiofficial bodies, like this one to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine discussing “Science Fiction as Natural Resource.” People actually pay to hear low-information bullshit?
Lightman claims that his greatest honor, and the most important one on his resume and on his homepage, is that he “won [the] first Economist magazine Reader’s Award.” In more detail, he claims that he received the Economist magazine’s 2010 Reader’s Choice Award for “The Innovation that will Most Radically Change the World over the Decade 2010 to 2020.” I figured that was as good a moment as any to actually check one of his claims. I inquired of the Economist and discovered that Lightman is a lying liar. Lightman was on hand at the Economist Innovation Summit in December 2010, where he delivered the acceptance speech for the Reader’s Award on behalf of the actual winner: “4G networking,” selected by an online poll of Economist readers “as the innovation with the greatest potential to change society in the coming decade.” The award was not given to him personally, or even in a general sense. He just gave the speech on behalf of 4G networking—at the Economist’s request before the ceremony—because he had written a 2002 book on 4G technology. (Each nominated technology had a speaker arranged to talk about it, should it have won.) Here’s video of 4G networks winning. “Accepting the award on behalf of the technology of 4G networks,” the event host says, “is Alex Lightman … probably the longest-standing advocate of 4G’s potential in the world. He wrote a book saying how great it would be eight years ago.”
How do we know he’s been intentionally lying (or has utterly deluded himself) for six years (most recently in a May radio appearance) about the Economist honoring him? Well, before the award was given out in 2010 he admitted on Facebook to understanding that he was not the recipient while actively seeking reader votes for 4G technology. That said, in his “acceptance” speech, he sounded a lot like he so identified with 4G technology that he seemed to really believe in that moment that he had won the award (which was simply an online poll—not an actual honor) rather than the technology.
I hope this nut never gets another TV appearance. He’s another J. Hutton Pulitzer in the making, and the History Channel should be ashamed to give him a platform to spin lies.
Anyway, back to the show: Church then returns to allege that the U.S. learned about transistors from the Roswell time ship. The show ignores the fact that World War II and the Cold War sparked tremendous research, but Lightman claims that “this democratizing technology was simply dropped into our laps like a gift” in 1947 because of Roswell. Seriously? You don’t see any sort of connection to the vast amounts of money and expertise dumped into science? Lightman of course does not, arguing that “someone is managing the timeline” to ensure that the correct scientific advances occur on schedule.
The program turns then to Nazism, because this is the History Channel. So we get material on the modern myth of the Nazi Bell, with South African bullshit artist Michael Tellinger, the ancient astronaut theorist, chiming in alongside Lightman. The material discussed here is the same as that from Ancient Aliens and In Search of Aliens, and computer animation used in the show is very similar to animation used in Ancient Aliens. While it seems to be independently constructed, the earlier version appears to be the clear inspiration for it. Needless to say, the show provides no evidence of Nazi time travel, instead sourcing their claims only to passive voice “reports” and things that “were said.” This is because the material was developed only in 2000 and has little to no basis in documentary or physical evidence. The only physical evidence is a structure dubbed “the henge,” the remains of a cooling tower that a Polish conspiracy theorist alleged was used as a launch pad for a time machine.
The narrator claims that the evidence remains in “the most closely guarded vaults of the U.S. military.” This is set up for the second half of the show, which focuses on more U.S. government conspiracy theories. The first is the long-debunked “Philadelphia Experiment,” the allegation that the U.S.S. Eldridge teleported for a few minutes in 1943. The story is a fraud, made up mostly from whole cloth by UFO writer Morris K. Jessup’s pseudonymous source “Carlos Allende.” Many believe Carlos Allende was actually Carl Allen, a Pennsylvania man with a documented history of mental illness. The talking heads speculate (or, in many cases, are edited to sound like they speculate) on how the time travel experiment took place, and the narrator ties it to Tesla (but of course). No one on the show is allowed to doubt that the Philadelphia Experiment occurred.
The next segment explores Camp Hero in Montauk, Long Island. This former U.S. government base is the focus for a number of conspiracy theories, ranging from human experimentation to genetic experimentation to time travel. Stewart Swerdlow, who claims to be descended from the first president of the Soviet Union, appears on the show to allege that he participated in time travel experiments in Montauk—and yet somehow lived to tell the tale. In real life, Swerdlow is a self-described psychic who claims to be able to see auras because (and I wish I were making this up) he is the product of genetic engineering from 22 different species of space alien. He says in his book Montauk: The Alien Connection that he is in psychic contact with space aliens and was on board the U.S.S. Eldridge while in the body of a German during the Philadelphia Experiment. He also runs a New Age and conspiracy website.
To give you a flavor of his crazy, consider his views in this interview:
There was literally a program going on where they captured some personalities and placed them in families where they’d never be suspected and believe it. Some are coming to remember who they were. Many Nazis were placed into new bodies. I am meeting some. Not all in Jewish bodies, just a percentage. They’ve had this technology for a very long time and they use it for themselves. The Royal Family of Britain use it for themselves. They feign their deaths and go into their own descendants. They have amazing technology. Rigelians use it a lot. They clone a lot of bodies and capture soul personalities to put in. Any species can use it. This is Sirius A technology.
He also believes his mother had no birth canal and that the U.S. government and space aliens genetically engineered his fetus, resulting in three souls existing within him. He’s an advocate of David Icke’s Reptilian conspiracy as well.
What in the name of all that true is wrong with the History Channel? The only saving grace is that they did not order this show to series—at least not yet.
In the final segment, the show reviews an internet hoax about a “Ming dynasty” miniature Swiss watch, a Photoshopped picture, and speculates that it is somehow real. It then follows Ancient Aliens in believing that Leonardo da Vinci could not possibly have been a true genius because people just can’t think that hard, and therefore he must have received his inspiration from otherworldly beings during his “lost years” of 1476-1478. This segment repeats speculation from the Ancient Aliens episode “The Da Vinci Conspiracy,” but replaces space aliens with time travelers. Jimmy Church alleges that Leonardo “did a drive by” of the future and used what he saw there to create his scientific advances. Lightman agrees that Leonardo could only have developed his scientific breakthroughs via time travel.
Time Beings was a cheap knockoff of Ancient Aliens, and I can only hope that ratings were low enough that History will not be tempted to give it a full series order. It manages to be even less original than Ancient Aliens, recycling the same content with different talking heads and swapping out time travelers for aliens.
6/11/2016 10:22:17 pm
Ah, yes, time travel. Because aliens are so blasé.
6/11/2016 10:54:10 pm
I was going to break my tv when this crap was on! The same bs Philadelphia experiment lies. I saw the history channel arthur kent debunking of that in the 1990s. The history channel is a joke
B Lloyd Reese
6/11/2016 11:06:15 pm
Oh boy, sounds like fun...
6/12/2016 05:13:09 am
Or 12 Monkeys is a documentary the syfy channel had smuggled to them from the future.
6/12/2016 12:38:57 pm
Hey, that's a good idea. Chronotrigger reconciles ancient aliens *with* time travel. And advanced ancient civilizations. And lizard men. And robot uprisings.
6/12/2016 01:06:38 am
What, no Andrew Basiago? His story has it all! Time travel, teleportation, and Obama-might-be-the-anointed-Mars-Jesus conspiracies!
6/12/2016 03:07:18 am
Not as crazy as religious chimpanzees.
6/12/2016 02:11:08 am
Yes while on that Nazi “henge” did you ever talk about Nick Cooks "The Hunt For Zero Point"? I know you talked about Witkowski in http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-in-search-of-aliens-s01e02-nazi-time-travelers but that's only part of the rather chaotic journey of Cook with all his "contacts" whispering clues on the subject.
6/12/2016 04:15:46 am
I have often wondered how time travel can work.
6/12/2016 12:37:54 pm
If the proces of timetravel would 'transfer' inversely the same amount of energy as the mass represents, the equilibrium would be maintained.
6/13/2016 03:13:06 am
Funnily enough, roughly that concept (expressed in terms of the overall entropy of the universe) is dealt with in "War Factory" the latest Polity novel by Neal Asher. It turns out that you can (as with almost anything else in Asher's novels) weaponise the effect ...
6/13/2016 11:36:14 am
That's assuming that time is actually moving at the same rate everywhere in the universe--or even in the same direction. Personally, I tend to favor the...explanation, since I have no idea how testable it is, that time, as we see it and measure it, is simply motion along an axis of direction. If that is true, then there's no reason for a paradox to exist, as that would simply be a redistribution of mass within a static frame, thereby removing the need for synchronicity. After all, the entire number line doesn't collapse just because a graph is replotted and points move in relation to the axes.
6/13/2016 06:12:23 pm
Time is not moving at the same rate for moving objects.
6/13/2016 06:14:34 pm
6/12/2016 09:33:14 am
Doctor Who provides more plausible science of time travel than this special.
6/12/2016 12:40:06 pm
Time is a human concept,
6/12/2016 09:38:35 pm
You clearly aren't qualified for a debate about the nature of time (or anything else). It's bad enough you post as some sort of weird religious history authority.
6/12/2016 03:58:11 pm
It would appear, at least to me, that reading Jason's comments is still something I wish to do. However, making or reading the readers comments to longer appears to be something I would wish to do. It appears that the poster "Time Machine" is attempting to hi-jack the comments section for spread his own anti-religious, anti-Christian message.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
6/12/2016 04:08:47 pm
He's been doing that for at least a year, under various monikers, but he's particularly annoying lately.
An Over-Educated Grunt
6/12/2016 04:19:59 pm
There are two factors that reduce the amount that I post around here. First is that the only tool commonly available to me is a phone. It sucks to post from a phone.
An Over-Educated Grunt
6/12/2016 04:22:04 pm
And a bunch of exhibits there about why I hate posting from my phone...
6/12/2016 05:23:39 pm
In all fairness, there is much to condemn in Christianity. Further, since Jason's thesis is that all pseudo-history derives from stories of Watchers, especially as spread by Christians such as Von Danikan, is not this whole website anti-Christian?
6/12/2016 05:46:56 pm
Jason's website is anti-Christian just because he debunks theories that either involve the Watchers or are derived from the Watchers? Whenever Jason talks about the Watchers and their influence on pseudoscientific theories he is in no way criticizing the myths of the Watchers themselves, he is just criticizing the theories themselves and the people that come up with them. I have not seen Jason ever criticize the Bible or the stories in it in any of his posts, which makes sense considering the fact that Bible debunker is not his job title. That is not the kind of site he runs. He focuses on history, anthropology, pseudoscience, and the influence that mythology, science-fiction, and horror fiction has on it. To say that Jason goes out of his way to bring up Christian stories as a means to criticize it is completely false. It just so happens that many of these claims are derived from Christianity, because we live in a society that has been Christian-centric for centuries, and as a result many claims in the fringe culture were born as a reaction the to cultural progress and scientific advancements it has often clashed with. What Time Machine is doing is trolling, and as an atheist myself I'm disgusted by how hateful he sounds in a lot of his posts but I ignore him/her because it is just a waste of my time to respond.
6/12/2016 05:53:13 pm
Hardly so. Particularly when one considers that the source material for the Watchers is Jewish, not Christian.
6/13/2016 11:44:53 am
A Buddhist, I would argue that someone like Von Daniken is not, precisely, a Christian. He has too many beliefs that would be considered by most sects to be heretical, if not outright blasphemies, to be a good representative of "Christian." But even if he were a perfect example of "Christian," that still wouldn't make this website anti-Christian, because Jason's stories do not focus on how Christianity is wrong and to blame, it focuses on how the stories told by these people, who may or may not be Christian, are not supported by evidence, grow out of extracanonical texts that are often falsified in the first place, one could just as easily make the claim that Jason was defending the Christian faith.
terry the censor
6/12/2016 04:02:23 pm
> Leonardo could only have developed his scientific breakthroughs via time travel.
6/12/2016 07:18:14 pm
First law of time travel, exploit the tar out of it. If you could go back and do the Back to the Future 2 betting on a horse race thing, with knowledge from the future, you surely would. The time traveler would make him or her self the richest person in all creation by guessing the outcome, because he'd already know it, of everything. He could cure all disease, end all wars, and appear neigh omnipresent, but not omnipotent. Surely some other time traveler would get wind of it and come looking for him.
6/12/2016 07:32:08 pm
Very well said
6/12/2016 11:50:44 pm
I absolutely abhor the concept of time travel and how it pervades storylines in science fiction. Just ruins everything.
An Over-Educated Grunt
6/13/2016 09:12:07 am
Don't complain when H.G. Wells shows up on your doorstep and socks you in the jaw then. :p
David Childress' Neckfat
6/13/2016 12:11:06 pm
You know what was wrong with this special? Not enough Childress!
6/14/2016 12:26:51 am
Wait, a time-travel phone that can send messages back in time? That's the plot of the visual novel/anime series Steins;Gate. And no John Titor? Sucks, but since his predictions never came to much I'm not surprised.
6/14/2016 08:11:43 am
True predictions or not, what made the Titor story great was the depth and manner in which it was presented. These days internet hoaxes and crackpot fringe radio guests (and hosts) are a dime a dozen, but in 2000 it was Art or nothing.
6/14/2016 01:08:31 am
The best explanation for celebrity look-alikes in old photos and Leonardo da Vinci is time travel? Some people need to use Occam's Razor to shave away all whole lot of improbability.
6/20/2016 06:38:34 am
I've got a feeling that the History Channel isn't through trying to copy ideas from "Star Trek" and "Doctor Who." The problem with this sort of thing is that both shows KNOW that a lot of the stuff they present aren't real,while the History Channel is trying to mix science fiction and documentaries and aren't doing a very good job at it.
2/18/2019 08:35:26 am
The History Channels Time Beings: Extreme Time Travel Conspiracies programme was interesting viewing. However they have made some glaring mistakes concerning Stewart Swerdlow and the Montauk Project. The great pretender Stewart Swerdlow is nothing more than a sly charlatan, a liar and a con artist. Whenever he mentions his usual disinformation backstory about Yakov Sverdlov being his great-uncle, people should be aware that Swerdlow made up that lie to further develop his fake persona for marketing purposes back in 1997. Stewart Swerdlow was never related to Yakov Sverdlov and Swerdlow does not have Russian ancestry. Swerdlow's ancestry comes from Belarus and Poland. Many people know Stewart Swerdlow's family never originated from Russia in the first place because researchers have done his genealogy which clearly shows this. Yakov Sverdlov was also never the first head of state of the Soviet Communist Party in Russia because he died in 1919 and the Soviet Union was not established until 1922. Swerdlow is therefore simply hoodwinking and tricking gullible people and nothing more with his fantastical backstories. Everything about Stewart Swerdlow is just one large monumental lie and deception from beginning to end. Swerdlow is so fixated on using his Soviet Union connections marketing gimmick that many attendees to his dubious public talks say he sometimes speaks with a mock Russian accent which then gives him an air of legitimacy, when Swerdlow is in reality a con man who only cares about his own egocentric based fame. People should remember Stewart Swerdlow also did that fake green screen presentation, where the background showed the Kremlin in Moscow, whilst Swerdlow spoke pigeon Russian for a few seconds that he had learned by using Rosetta Stone language software. Swerdlow really is a laughable con man.
2/19/2019 03:51:22 am
Why on earth did the History Channel interviewed a charlatan, liar, deceiver, wannabe, con artist and plagiarizer called Stewart Swerdlow? The fact they did is truly perplexing indeed. Swerdlow has been proven with consistent research to be a disinformer of the worst kind who dupes vunerable people with mental health and psychosexual problems, so he can form a loyal cult around himself and indoctrinate people with his fake information. In Blue Blood, True Blood, Stewart Swerdlow does state he has the DNA of 22 alien races. In his book, Blue Blood, True Blood, Stewart Swerdlow also states he has three Souls inside his body. Can anyone believe how utterly insane Swerdlow is? Does that not sound like Swerdlow is demonically possessed? On the Expansions website, in radio interviews, YouTube videos and workshops Swerdlow has done, he clearly states he has Bear DNA, Lion DNA, Scorpion DNA, Aldebaran DNA, Sirian DNA and Viking DNA.
2/21/2019 07:07:55 am
Well the farcical story that Stewart Swerdlow has made up about himself being on the Montauk Project is absolutely ludicrous beyond belief. When Swerdlow tells people he has the DNA of 22 separate alien races, he really does show how utterly insane he really is. Only a pompous egocentric maniac would make up a total lie like that. Stewart Swerdlow as also mentioned he has the DNA of 5 other alien races. In Blue Blood, True Blood, Swerdlow mentions he has the DNA lineage of Saint Peter the Apostle. His wife, Janet Swerdlow always tells people she has the DNA of Mary Magdalene and is of the Waldenisian Bloodline in France. Maybe both Stewart Swerdlow and his wife should have DNA tests done. Of course they won't though, because they are scamming gullible people with their fantasy world deceptions.
2/22/2019 07:16:28 am
After reading your review of the History Channel programme entitled 'Ancient Aliens. Time Beings: Extreme Time Travel Conspiracies', I noticed they interviewed Stewart Swerdlow. I was truly amazed the History Channel would interview someone like Swerdlow. There is so much information exposing Stewart Swerdlow as a charlatan, liar and con man, it is ridiculous. Stewart Swerdlow plagiarized the DNA of 22 aliens idea from Alex Collier (Ralph Amagran) who said that Humans generally have the DNA of 22 aliens. So the disinformer Swerdlow took the lies of Alex Collier and simply reused them to embellish his own fake backstory for marketing purposes.
3/18/2019 07:34:15 pm
I watched the History Channel programme entitled 'Ancient Aliens. Time Beings: Extreme Time Travel Conspiracies' and was quite shocked to see they had interviewed Stewart Swerdlow. Most people already known that Swerdlow tells whopping great lies all the time and spreads nothing but disinformation. Frankly, I am amazed the History Channel did not do their research into Swerdlow and his constantly changing backstories. Many people now realize the Montauk Project was a total lie made up by Preston Nichols and Stewart Swerdlow. Extensive research has proven the science, technology and engineering that was apparently part of the Montauk Project time travel experiments, was all completely false. There have been two Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) scans done at Montauk Point and no underground bases or tunnel networks were found there. So how could time travel experiments have taken place on the Montauk Project when the military base never even existed? Preston Nichols made up the Montauk Project time travel experiments lie to get noticed and the johnny-come-lately Stewart Swerdlow then liked the idea's of Nichols, and therefore decided to reinvent his persona after coming out of prison in 1992. Stewart Swerdlow most definitely plagiarized the Language of Hyperspace material from his social worker, who was a blind, half German, half American Indian lady called Maryanne Johnston. She was a real clairvoyant, unlike Swerdlow, who had real extraterrestrial experiences, where she learned about the Language of Hyperspace material. Swerdlow simply used her knowledge to further embellish his fake backstory. In addition to this, to further exaggerate his false backstory, Stewart Swerdlow even uses a rather bad Russian accent to further embellish the whopping great lie that he has Russian ancestry and Yakob Sverdlov was his so-called great-uncle. If only people would do a bit of research on Stewart Swerdlow, and then people would realize everything he says is false. The large number of revelations about Stewart Swerdlow reveal he is most definitely a charlatan, a fraud, a liar, a scammer and a con artist of massive proportions who has duped a lot of people with his large amount of deceptions.
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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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