Project Blue Book is a new TV series by Robert Zemeckis that was premiered on the History channel on 8 January 2019, and later released via the Sci-Fi channel in the UK on 27 March 2019. The show is allegedly based on true events, and it’s been hilariously described by Wikipedia as a historical drama – both claims are inaccurate.
According to IMBD, the actual storyline is presented as follows
In this conspiratorial Sci-Fi thriller set some time after WWII and loosely based on the US government’s real life Project Blue Book, Captain Michael Quinn and Dr. Allen Hynek are tasked by the US Air Force to investigate reports of UFOs and debunk them, or at least come up with rational explanations for them. While Quinn, a smooth and tough military type, doesn’t care about anything other than doing the job he was given, at first, the more skeptical Hynek quickly becomes convinced that some kind of deadly conspiracy is afoot. Meanwhile, as Cold War paranoia spreads among the population, a charismatic blonde with an agenda of her own befriends Hynek’s lonely wife.
One of the associated pieces of trivia provided by IDBM is this
This series represents the second TV series titled “Project Blue Book”. Jack Webb created the original show and his company produced it. Also called “Project U.F.O.” the show aired on NBC from 1978-1979.
So what the viewer is really watching is TV a show that is based on a 1970s TV show that is very loosely based on the real Project Blue Book files. In fact, what the viewer appears to be watching is a combination of Project UFO, Dark Skies and the X-Files. This then means that the viewer is getting a high dose of unoriginal and uninspiring plotlines instead of a tense thriller that is based on the investigative work of astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek. Hynek was hired as a scientific advisor by the US Air Force’s to assist staff working on Project Blue Book. On that point I would like to recommend two classic texts on the subject that were authored by Hynek himself.
The UFO Experience: A Scientific Enquiry, 1974 free pdf download courtesy of the Center for UFO Studies
The Hynek UFO Report, 1977 free pdf download courtesy of the Center for UFO Studies
The books themselves enlighten the reader with the shocking revelation that the UFO subject was dismissed by US Air Force officials as a problem than an interesting challenge or means for genuine enquiry. Reported sightings were expected to be met with plausible simple solutions, dealt with on a case by case basis. These solutions were rarely based on objective scientific research but what was convenient to say.
Actual solutions can only be provided if one has access to two things – resources and data, and the US Air Force provided Blue Book staff with inadequate levels of both. In fact, there was no study of flying saucers, as UFOs were termed then, and what the authorities demanded was an end to the aerial nonsense! To their dismay the subject never went away, no matter how many cases were reported annually to the Air Force – many of the explanations offered just did not seem to make any sense to Hynek when he joined the project’s precursor Project Sign in 1948.
All in all, the US Air Force handled the subject very badly, from its ridiculing attitude based on The Estimate of the Solution provided by Project Sign in 1948, to poor PR, and to the treatment of UFO observers. In a paranoid era of anti-communism, and the rise of the Soviet Union as a super power, flying saucers were low on the Air Force’s list of priorities (the CIA, on the other hand, saw the value this subject offered them).
“The powers that be are anti-flying saucer and to stay in favour, it behooves one to follow suit.” Air Force officer quoted by Captain E.J. Ruppelt, first Director of Project Blue Book, in The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (free download).
When Hynek arrived he wanted to apply scientific methodology to the multitude of rejected UFO files – no data was being examined by the authorities. He submitted his own report in 1949 and joined Project Blue Book in 1952 under the command of Ruppelt. Hynek had the opportunity to interview hundreds of witnesses and to testify on a number of occasions to Congressional groups who expressed an interest in the subject. Clearly there were some in power who were interested in better understanding what was going on.
This is where the Blue Book TV series falls apart. In the first four episodes I have watched Hynek is invited by the US Air Force to help them investigate flying saucer sightings but by the fourth show the viewer has
- already encountered a wreckage of a crashed flying disk secretly stored in an air force hangar
- seen Hynek’s wife befriended by a Russian spy wanting to learn more about what the US government knows about flying saucers
- observed senior air force officers involved in a high level conspiracy to hide the truth from US citizens
- view mysterious men in dark suits and hats appearing at arms length, acting menacing and leading Hynek into a world of the extraterrestrial (these are the men in black but clearly the programme makers hadn’t read anything by John Keel)
- come across strange glyphs on a photograph of a weird looking stone obelisk
- ta-dah….. a field decorated with a crop circle
This is the equivalent to revealing the monster in the first five minutes of a Hollywood blockbuster, which rarely works and, in this case, doesn’t.
These are very obvious tropes present that are easily located within very well known conspiracy theory narratives (Roswell, Hangar 18 etc etc) and represented in earlier TV shows. It makes me realise that the makers are riding on already established stories to hook the viewer and that they’re not making any effort to explore the nuances of what persuaded Hynek to change from being a ridiculing sceptic to a more open-minded scientist who want to employ data and research methodologies to say something very real and incredible about the UFO phenomenon – that what was being experienced and reported by people was a phenomenon that requires a different even revolutionary way of thinking about the scientific laws we use to understand the world we live in.
Hynek left his UFO consultation in 1973 soon after Project Blue Book had been closed down. Instead he founded the Center for UFO studies and teamed up with fellow astronomer Dr. Jacques Vallee to continue his work into UFOs (or what is now labelled Aerial Phenomena Research).
Is it any wonder that in a convenient environment of ridicule blind scepticism and unreasonable denial, Hynek and Valle set to work behind closed doors with other scientists in their ‘Invisible College’? Both of these men were included in Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Vallee’s role was depicted by actor Francois Truffaut, Hynek himself appears in one of the final scenes in a brief cameo. The conclusion of this ‘Invisible College’ (supported partly by Jung’s work on the subject) was that the UFO had the power to influence the human world and bring change. The UFO was itself an agent of change – now that, when explored a little, has the markings of an incredible thriller, which would sensibly leave behind the tiring incredulous myths associated with Roswell, Area 51, Hangar 18 and Majestic 12.
Project Blue Book had a total of 13,134 UFO sightings reported to it, and yet this TV series hardly touches any of them.
I therefore do not recommend the funding of a third series of Project Black Book but I do recommend reading the following publication
Hynek, J.A., Vallee, J., 1975. The Edge of Reality. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company