The History Channel has decided to tackle the controversial history of the U.S. Air Force’s involvement in researching the UFO phenomenon in their upcoming scripted drama series Project Blue Book. Promoting the winter release of their new “based on true events” series, History took the opportunity to release more information about the show and UFO history during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. An immersive activation, a new trailer, and articles on UFOs on the show’s website were all part of the push to get audiences intrigued by what could shape up to be an exciting series.
If the U.S. Air Force (USAF) doesn’t care about UFOs and claims there is nothing to the phenomenon, how can a show based on what the USAF didn’t find be worth watching? Although the USAF gives the impression that every UFO sighting they investigated was a dead end, the actual files and the researchers involved have a different story. In fact, the USAF said there were over 700 cases that remained unidentified after a thorough investigation. It was these cases that turned the lead scientist working on the project from a skeptic to one of the most influential civilian investigators of the UFO mystery.
The lead character in History’s Project Blue Book is Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who is played by Aidan Gillen of Game of Thrones fame. In real life, Hynek was a well-known astronomer and didn’t think there was anything to the so-called “flying saucer” reports of the time. He referred to the whole thing as “utterly ridiculous.” In 1948, Hynek was recruited by the USAF to aid them in their first UFO investigation, Project Sign. He stuck with them through the second program, Project Grudge, and then the third and final, Project Blue Book, which ended in 1969.
Hynek says he began to be increasingly frustrated with the USAF insisting he explain cases to the public soon after they happened. Sometimes an extraordinary case would cause a media frenzy, and Hynek would be forced to explain it before investigating. In one high profile instance, Hynek speculated that UFOs reported in Michigan during the mid-60s could be swamp gas. The public didn’t like that answer. Neither did their U.S. Senator at the time, Gerald Ford. The furor around these sightings prompted Ford to call for Senate hearings on the matter.
Eventually, Hynek felt UFOs posed a genuine mystery worthy of scientific study, despite the USAF’s opinion to the contrary. After the close of Project Blue Book, Hynek continued UFO studies with his organization the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). He became very well-known, and it was his work that inspired Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In fact, Hynek coined the phrase used for the title of the movie and had a short cameo appearance in the film.
Mix in some of the cases Hynek believed were legit, and you have a pretty exciting show, but History doesn’t stop there. They have added some speculation to spice things up. According to the show’s description, in the series, “Hynek begins to suspect that he has been duped by the government into a larger conspiracy to cover up the truth.”
During Comic-Con, History also added several articles to the Project Blue Book website, including one regarding Men in Black. Are these the nefarious government insiders trying to keep the truth from the public? We’ll see.
Regarding those articles, besides the one on Men in Black, there are also two more highlighting real Project Blue Book cases that were also part of History’s activation at Comic-Con. One is on the Flatwoods Monster, a UFO sighting that included a strange monster/robot looking thing in a forest. The other is about a dogfight an Air National Guard pilot says he had with a UFO in a P-51 Mustang. We found out in the activation the show will depict both of these events.
Following the success of their scripted drama Vikings, the History Channel has gone all in on Project Blue Book. The show is executive produced by Robert Zemeckis, who directed Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, and Contact. The later being an iconic film on alien contact. Besides Gillan, the show co-stars Michael Malarkey, best known as the character Enko in Vampire Diaries. In Project Blue Book he plays “the debonair Air Force Captain Michael Quinn,” a apparent Scully like character to Gillan’s Mulderish Hynek.
Taking a look at the trailer, it is immediately apparent the production value is top-notch. UFO buffs will recognize Gillan’s portrayal of Dr. Hynek as familiar. Although the show has an X-Files air about it, it feels like the universe is calibrated correctly to have a predecessor that focuses on real government files and Professor Hynek hunting down the truth. The only thing I see missing is Hynek’s signature pipe and the light brown stain it left on his salt and pepper beard. Maybe they will add that to season 2.
We will have to wait until an undisclosed time in the winter to see how the show turns out. For now, I am off to finish the Project Blue Book comic book History was giving away at the activation.