Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods
provides the inspiration for this History Channel series, which takes UFOs and extraterrestrials deadly seriously. Over five episodes, it explores phenomena throughout the ages that defy explanation. The first, "Evidence," looks at Indian aeronautical texts, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Saqqara Bird, an Egyptian carving that anticipates the airplane. Legendary Times
publisher and consulting producer Giorgio A. Tsoukalos feels that items like the figurine "have nothing in common with anything similar in nature." That's a matter of opinion, though other authors, engineers, and investigators tend to agree, which isn't a problem in and of itself, except there are few dissenting voices.
In "The Visitors," "The Mission," and "Closer Encounters," the show travels to Peru, Mali, Iraq, and other locations to discuss elongated skulls, cattle mutilation, and primitive stargazing (the theory that King Tut might have been part-alien seems pretty far-fetched). Further references to the Knights Templar and the Ark of the Covenant, which some believe lies beneath an island in Nova Scotia, bring Spielberg blockbusters, like Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, to mind. The series concludes with "The Return," a look at sightings and attempts to communicate with aliens by NASA and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).
Like von Däniken's controversial bestseller, Ancient Aliens presents intriguing data but calls for a healthy degree of skepticism, since there's more speculation on offer than verifiable fact (the boisterous Swiss scribe also appears in the program). The academic speakers make valid points, but a few experts seem less credible. It's easier, for instance, to trust an MIT or UCLA scholar over a radio host or crop circle researcher. This three-disc set concludes with a bonus episode, "Chariots, Gods and Beyond," which surveys the links between theology and ancient astronaut theory. --Kathleen C. Fennessy