This Friday, Ancient Aliens presents a two-hour special in which The UnXplained host William Shatner meets with the various talking heads from Ancient Aliens and interviews them about space aliens, science, and futurism. The crossover between Ancient Aliens and sister program The UnXplained is made possible by the two shows’ shared production company. The special runs more than two hours, and it continues well past how late I can stay up as the father of an energetic three-year-old. As a result, I won’t review it until sometime Saturday, when I have had a chance to watch it.
But in the runup to the program, Shatner did a promotional interview with The Debrief in which he discussed the upcoming special. Interviewer M.J. Banias threw some softballs at Shatner and failed to raise with him the issue of the dark side of the ancient astronaut theory, including its racist origins and its popularity among extremist groups such as QAnon and white nationalists. As we saw last month, some of the Capitol insurrectionists expressed views about secret space programs and space aliens directly paralleling those broadcasted on Ancient Aliens, and at least one showed up to the riot wearing a sweatshirt bearing the image of Ancient Aliens star Giorgio Tsoukalos.
Instead, Banias let Shatner ramble about how fun it is to speculate dangerously about alien conspiracies. And it’s pretty clear that Shatner, now 89, still has some very midcentury ideas about human evolution and development:
This coming Friday from 9:00 until 11:00 [Eastern] on the History Channel, it is all about Ancient Aliens. Did aliens come here? Are they here? What’s the explanation behind some of these almost impossible engineering feats that are part of mankind’s legacy? How did they lift these enormous objects and transport them, where our engineering experts can’t do it today? What’s the explanation behind that? How did we achieve these giant jumps in intelligence? And suddenly, we went from coming out of a tree to these inventions that propel mankind. Some people attribute it to aliens interfering or guiding human beings. And some people look askance, like myself, which is what this two-hour thing is on Friday. I want to know why people believe ancient aliens existed and why they think that aliens exist today. I mean, it’s a fascinating subject of which we know very little.
His view of human evolution is straight out of the 1960s, which, I guess, stands to reason, given that all of his other attitudes are locked in that era, too. But a lot of work has been done since then, and we know much more than to claim hominins went from living in trees to building pyramids “suddenly.”
Shatner three times referred to moving heavy stones as an impossibility that is beyond human comprehension. That, too, is a strange argument considering that the construction methods of ancient structures have been studied for centuries and we know in many cases exactly how rocks were moved, or have numerous plausible methods that could have been used. But Shatner, who claims to be agnostic about ancient astronaut theories, doubts: “Or that they came down and they said, ‘Look, guy, here’s how you lift this stone and place it over here.’ I mean, if they talked to us, if that was the explanation, what are the ramifications of that? So out there possibly lies a mystery that is so foreign to us human beings that not knowing is driving us crazy.”
Those are the words of someone seeking transcendence, not someone looking for a mechanical explanation for how simple machines and massive labor pools can move heavy objects. Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto, Terrence once wrote. For William Shatner, everything human could possibly be alien, and anything he doesn’t understand must be unknowable to anyone.
2/10/2021 01:38:06 pm
"... the issue of the dark side of the ancient astronaut theory, including its racist origins and its popularity among extremist groups such as QAnon and white nationalists."
2/10/2021 04:11:35 pm
If a group believes in evolution in that some humans are more highly evolved than others and should be treated accordingly then yes that is a theory and group promoting it can be rejected.
2/11/2021 12:54:34 pm
You seem to be claiming that evolution could never produce any result that might result in uncomfortable moral and ethical implications for human societies.
2/10/2021 11:10:17 pm
A theory should be evaluated in the full context that created it, including how and why it came into being, who advocates for it, and why they advocate for it.
2/11/2021 01:03:35 pm
The Nazis took your advice and rejected relativity as "Jewish science".
2/11/2021 02:46:15 pm
So if we discover that a sufficient number of advocates for evolution had unsavoury motives, to we reject the theory? And replace it with what?
Rupert the doll
2/11/2021 02:52:37 pm
When the homeless guy accosts you on the subway and demands that you listen to his theory about Jewish lizard people plotting world domination it is a safe bet that you can get by with an immediate rejection rather than full consideration of all possible merits of the theory.
2/12/2021 09:10:11 am
"When the homeless guy accosts you on the subway and demands that you listen to his theory about Jewish lizard people plotting world domination it is a safe bet that you can get by with an immediate rejection rather than full consideration of all possible merits of the theory."
2/12/2021 03:35:17 pm
I'm quite confident that neither biden nor the Pope nor gates would make this claim so it is a moot point in this particular instance.
2/13/2021 05:42:37 am
Rejecting something as "Jewish Science" is literally not examining a theory in its full context.
2/10/2021 02:07:52 pm
Instead of wrestling with these unknowable matters, it's about time old Bill gave us the answer to the only question which is of interest to any of us, namely, "did you give Uhura one"?
2/10/2021 02:28:04 pm
"Ï look askance."
2/10/2021 02:56:42 pm
It shouldn’t be surprising that The Debrief avoided asking Billy anything controversial, given Banias’ recent article:
2/10/2021 03:34:26 pm
I think one of the funniest things that could have happened to William Shatner when he played James Kirk would have been if he had been beamed down to a planet and then said
2/14/2021 01:44:46 pm
Nice one! Now that you started me thinking, there's all sorts of pranks Scotty could have played with that transporter. As for the rest, there are still tribes in remote interiors. They would seem quite uncivilized if suddenly stuck in a modern city. But I'm pretty sure they would survive. We, on the other hand wouldn't last a week in their environment. Not without the film crew or unless they recognized our complete sense of jungle smarts and helped us.
2/10/2021 04:09:00 pm
I’m more outraged that no one has ever confronted Shatner regarding the missing hair pieces that he “borrowed” from the original Star Trek production. The man is a thief and he needs to pay for his crimes!
2/11/2021 08:15:58 am
I sense a bit of tongue-in-cheek here, so good one. Taking stuff (okay, "stealing") from the set is very common.
2/10/2021 04:20:29 pm
2/11/2021 08:09:44 am
He IS retired. Would it make you happy if he went to a nursing home?
2/11/2021 07:59:52 pm
Do you mean he just went to bed ?
2/11/2021 11:29:43 pm
2/10/2021 04:23:12 pm
Title for today's blog post should be "
2/10/2021 05:35:05 pm
I once had my 9 yr old nephew lift up one side of a heavy garden shed using a lever so I could slip a foundation block under a corner. He was amazed that he, by himself could lift that much weight.
2/11/2021 10:49:57 am
2/11/2021 08:26:17 pm
For sure, moving big things by hand is not exactly alien to me. With a small crew of 4 or 5, we moved a number of houses and other large buildings by hand. Sure we used a few mechanical jacks to lift the buildings but jacks are nothing more than elaborate levers, they will save you time but it's not a problem to lift something without them using just levers.
2/11/2021 07:04:16 am
Yeesh, you happen to get on a tv show that happens to become popular with some kids (I loved scifi back then but I didn't much like Star Trek, which always looked cheesy and had pretty embarrassing acting) and 50 years later you're considered a guru whose every flatulent puff of senile speculation is considered newsworthy. The bleedover from media popularity to presumed gravitas is a pretty sad indication of how our brains really operate.
2/11/2021 08:07:02 am
Hard to tell where you're getting this "presumed gravitas" nonsense. It's worth considering that you might be the only person on the planet who sees that. Maybe you should call Mike Slocum on The Hurtline.
Long Time Lurker
2/11/2021 12:15:40 pm
Would this be a good place to point out that Shatner's "Tek" books were ghost written by Ron Goulart, who also wrote quite funny, satirical science fiction as well as mysteries and comics history?
2/11/2021 11:33:44 pm
2/14/2021 12:39:00 pm
Walkin' tall machine gun man keeping it real. Roosta man gotta keep the two jump chumps in their place.
2/15/2021 12:54:08 am
Yes, shows like ancient aliens do contribute to the spread of conspiracy theories. They throw real science aside. But its not like Shatner wrote the script or produced the show. Its just a gig for him, its like you have an ax to grind about him. Why focus the criticism on him and your deep insights and knowledge of his mid century beliefs? Lol. Do you really think its not a script and hes just riffing and telling us what his attitudes really are? No you dont. Grow up. Slice up the producers and writers, the network, go afterGeorgio, van daniken, and all the rest. THEY are followed by conspiracy nuts and far right racists, not Shatner.
2/15/2021 06:22:13 pm
So, it's okay to make coin and con the gullible, making arguments you don't even believe yourself ?
2/15/2021 11:47:35 pm
"So, it's okay to make coin and con the gullible, making arguments you don't even believe yourself ?"
Star Fleet Admiral Obvious
2/16/2021 11:07:30 am
"Would it be better if you actually believed it?"
2/16/2021 04:02:56 pm
First we'll take a stroll through your faulty reasoning.
Starfleet Academy Cadet Obvious
2/16/2021 06:30:27 pm
Your comprehension of the English language is almost as bad as Franke's. Slow.....down....and....take....your....time.
2/18/2021 10:26:54 am
"Your comprehension of the English language is almost as bad as Franke's. Slow.....down....and....take....your....time."
2/26/2021 12:56:18 pm
"...he acquits himself quite well in English."
2/26/2021 04:59:27 pm
Why don't you pick any language in the world and do better than him? (singsong) You know why. (/singsong)
Mass media mogul obvious
2/27/2021 09:03:16 pm
I already have. You haven't been keeping up, have you?
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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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