My previous review of Ghostwatch inspired me to start a series- “Convention Finds”- where I’ll review the various movies that I’ve picked up at conventions over the years. For this second part of the series, I’ve decided to keep with a theme established by Ghostwatch- the hoax film.
For a while the idea of extraterrestrial visitors was kind of in vogue among the public- there was Whitley Strieber’s Communion, Fox’s “Alien Autopsy”, “The X-Files” and the like all positing that there are aliens among us and the government is covering up this fact. (For the record, I believe that there is life on other planets, although I don’t think Earth has ever been visited by any alien life forms. To me, the evidence just isn’t there. However, I do like to read about unusual phenomena, so I briefly immersed myself in UFO lore.)
It was at this point that I first heard of Alternative 3- a documentary that had originally aired in Britain in 1977. Alternative 3 claimed that there was a vast conspiracy among the world’s governments which involved scientists that had gone missing, and secret space missions.
The show was part of an educational series called Science Report, and was hosted by Tim Brinton, a BBC announcer and future member of Parliament. It begins by investigating a “brain drain” going on in Britain, in which many of its top scientists, engineers, physicists, etc. were disappearing or dying under mysterious circumstances. One of the scientists- Dr. Ballantine- has left behind a mysterious videotape that is unplayable on standard equipment.
As the reporters delve farther into the mystery, evidence arises that points to the scientists having been involved in a secret American/Soviet plan in outer space. The evidence also suggests that space travel had been possible for much longer than was commonly accepted.
So what exactly was this secret plan? It seems scientists had determined that, due to massive pollution, the Earth's surface would be unable to support life for much longer. Three solutions to the problem were proposed: Alternative 1- detonating nuclear bombs in the stratosphere in order to allow the pollution to escape; Alternative 2- constructing an elaborate underground city; Alternative 3- populating Mars via a waystation on the Moon.
We see an interview with Apollo astronaut Bob Grodin who claims to have stumbled on a mysterious lunar base during his moonwalk. He tells the reporters that Ballantine’s videotape can only be played on machines equipped with a special decoding device. After the reporters secure such a device, we are treated to the smoking gun- the videotape depicts a landing on the Martian surface- in 1962! As Russian and American voices excitedly celebrate their achievement, something stirs beneath the Martian soil...
And then come the credits. You mean this was a work of fiction? (Yes- I realize this is how I ended my recap of Ghostwatch, but I believe in recycling.)
Yes- Alternative 3 is another BBC-sponsored prank (the show was originally to have aired on April 1. Due to some production snags, it didn’t premiere until June.) This one was both more and less effective than Ghostwatch. It was less effective because it didn’t cause the kinds of panicked reactions (and subsequent banning) of the latter show. But it was way more effective because this documentary really has legs- there are still people today who believe that what was shown in it was the truth.
I’m not qualified to give (nor am I very good at it when I try) any kind of psychological analysis of people who, for one reason or another, really need to believe in this kind of thing. As I said earlier, I believe in life on other planets, I just don’t think it’s made contact with us. I also believe that those in power cover up a lot of information, and tend to act in their own best interests over those of the people they’ve been chosen to govern. But there are many people who take this to the extreme and let it dominate their own critical facilities.
Looking at Alternative 3, it can feed paranoia- thirty years on, we are still worried about pollution, global warming, global cooling, and other environmental disasters, but our governments seem not be too concerned. Why, if environmental breakdown would also affect their lives, don’t they do something? Perhaps they do have a plan to help themselves at our expense.
Other UFOlogists have taken this and run with it. Milton William Cooper has stated that there was another alternative, which was elimination of vast segments of the population, possibly by biowarfare. AIDS was first seen only a few years this show. And what about Ebola, West Nile Virus and Bird Flu?
Well, surely the fact that there are acting and writing credits at the end of the show accounts for something? Nope- all part of clever disinformation process- disguise truth as fiction so that people will scoff at the truth-seekers.
Anyway- the DVD I have has a nice bonus feature- a videotape of a lecture at a UFO conference. The lecture starts off with the speaker showing the “Martian landing” segment. I didn’t describe this segment before, so let me do so now. It’s pretty cheesy- it starts off with aerial photography of a Mars lander flying over a desert-like landscape. The landscape fills most of the frame, although in the foreground we can see one of the legs of the lander. Every so often, the picture breaks into static. Whenever it comes back, we are a bit closer to Mars, and usually flying at a slightly different angle. (Hmm...) The picture goes out for an even longer time, and when it comes back the module has landed on the planet’s surface (Double Hmm...) Then comes the shocker- right by the lander’s leg, we see something is disturbing the soil. We don’t see whatever it is, we just see the soil being shifted as if something just under the surface is moving away. It looks kind of like those old cartoons where Bugs Bunny is traveling underground, and we see his path by the raised dirt.
There only audio is that off the audience watching this clip. There are a few muted “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” during the flight sequences, but I had to laugh at the reactions when the dirt started moving. The shocked “Oh my God”s are a wonder to hear. One gentleman just keeps muttering “Jesus, Jesus” over and over.
The lights come on and a large gentleman with a strange taste in clothes and an even stranger accent begins to speak about how this film was presented at a UFO conference and the experts point to this as proof beyond a reasonable doubt that there is life on Mars, and that it’s being covered up.
The rest of the lecture is pretty standard “X-Files” stuff, and not all that interesting to someone who isn’t fully into ET lore.
So, there you have it- my second Convention Find.
Or is it? Maybe this review is part of the conspiracy, too.