Monday, July 20, 2015

In Search of . . . Atlantis

by G. Jack Urso


In Search of . . . Atlantis Episode Teaser

In Search of . . . Atlantis, narrated by Leonard Nimoy and first broadcast on May 22, 1977, surveys the various artifacts and myths attributed to legend of Atlantis, which reached a height of interest in popular culture during the 1970s. Many of the items presented in the show as possible evidence of the lost continent were previously introduced in the documentaries In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973) and In Search of Ancient Mysteries (1973), narrated by Rod Serling, which are reviewed in the Aeolus 13 Umbra article In Search of . . . Preposterous Explanations. 

In this episode, the producers try to make the connection that every unexplained ancient monument or relic is somehow connected to the Atlantis myth. Petroglyphs, ancient Egypt, Central and South American Pre-Columbian Native Cultures, the so-called Bimini Wall, psychic Edgar Cayce, and other cultural artifacts are all tied into the legend of the lost continent.

Along with other “evidence,” such as the Easter Island moai and the Antikythera Mechanism, a complicated clockwork navigational aid from ancient Greece, these relics are connected to the Atlantis myth based on no more than unsupported speculation. This only serves to undermine the creditability of the episode and to devalue the accomplishments of the cultures that actually created these impressive examples of lost technology. For more information on the aforementioned items, please visit the Aeolus 13 Umbra articles In Search of . . . The Easter Island Massacre and The Antikythera Mechanism: A Relic of Ancient Greek Science.   

The Antikythera Mechanism
More serious research regarding the island of Santorini (aka Thera) and the Minoan culture and its connection to the Atlantis myth is presented. This provides a more substantial contribution to helping viewers appreciate the true origins of the legend of the lost continent – an ancient Mediterranean civilization wiped out by one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in history. The scenes shot of the archeological dig on location at Santorini add a certain authenticity to the episode. The remains of the inhabitants' former dwellings reminds the viewer of the human tragedy behind the myth.

Nimoy’s narration is at once mysterious and inviting, yet there is an extra dimension that goes beyond a simple vocal performance. If the ISO production team wanted to save money, any number of voiceover artists could have been used, yet Nimoy’s voice comes with the gravitas of his role on Star Trek as the cool and logical Mr. Spock. That extra dimension creates a subconscious element to the viewing experience that is more than just the words on a page. The producers recognized this while developing the concept and in fact Rod Serling, who narrated the two original 1973 In Search of . . .  documentaries, was intended to host the series before his untimely death in 1975. While Nimoy is the face of the series now, one can only wonder what contributions Serling would have made to the program.

Often overlooked is the music composed by Laurin Rinder and Mike Lewis. In addition to the In Search Of . . .  opening and closing themes, they also composed background and incidental music. In this episode, Rinder and Lewis perform pieces evocative of the tonal structure used in ancient Greek music that helps draw the viewer into the episode. It is in these small details, including Nimoy’s narration, that one can see how the various elements in a production combine to create an experience for the viewer that goes beyond the script.

While Nimoy carefully parses his words throughout the episode to make it clear that In Search of . . . takes no position on whether or not the tales of Atlantis are actually true, the attempt to connect so many divergent cultures and artifacts to the legend works against any claims of real objectivity. Except for the excellent segment on Santorini and the Minoan culture, In Search of . . . Atlantis, provides little to separate fact from fiction; however, for those interested in a historical perspective on the development of the Atlantis myth in popular culture one need go no further than this fine episode.

Note: While once available for viewing online, YouTube now blocks all In Search of . . . full episode uploads.



Saturday, July 18, 2015

In Search of . . . The Bermuda Triangle

by G. Jack Urso

In Search of . . . The Bermuda Triangle Episode Teaser

In Search of . . . The Bermuda Triangle, narrated by Leonard Nimoy and first broadcast on April 27, 1977. In this episode, the ISO research team explores disappearances and legends surrounding the Bermuda Triangle, perhaps the quintessential 1970s paranormal conspiracy theory.

This episode explores the mystery by reviewing specific events and interviewing actual participants in noted incidents. This provides a historical record of their testimonies for those researching the Bermuda Triangle. In typical ISO form, the producers do not evaluate any claims or evidence for their validity, they simply report what others have reported; however, this gives the impression of tacit approval of the otherworldly conspiracy theories. Many of the disappearances  previously attributed to “mysterious” circumstances have since been determined to have had very natural explanations, either due to misreported facts or rare ocean and weather phenomenon.

Nevertheless, ISO detours into the Twilight Zone when it highlights a bizarre call to a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, late night radio show about the Bermuda Triangle warning that the disappearances have an extraterrestrial origin. Why the producers spent any time on such nonsense is puzzling except that it fits in with the emerging New Age narrative of 1970s pop culture.

I do recall watching this episode when it first aired and being completely fascinated, and a little terrified, by the possible existence of a Bermuda Triangle. While I discount any supernatural explanation of rare, but otherwise explainable events, what keeps me going back is the wonderful writing. It creates an atmosphere of mystery and draws you deeper into it. Despite knowing better, I can’t help getting lured into the enigma of the Bermuda Triangle, even a little, because of the script and, of course, Leonard Nimoy’s wonderful narration.

Note: While once available for viewing online, YouTube now blocks all In Search of . . . full epsiode uploads.


In Search of . . . Inca Treasure

by G. Jack Urso


In Search of . . . Inca Treasure Episode Teaser

In Search of . . . Inca Treasure, a captivating 22-minute look at Incan art, culture, and legend, narrated by Leonard Nimoy and first broadcast August 1, 1977. While In Search of . . . is usually noted for its exploration of pseudo-scientific legends and myths such as Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, ghosts, and UFOs, it also produced a number of reasonably well-researched scholarly documentaries on such topics as the Aztecs, the historical Dracula, Vincent Van Gogh, Africanized “killer” bees, and, in this episode, the Incas. The "treasure" here is not gold, but rather the relics of a lost civilization.

This episode surveys Incan history intermixed with tales of the discovery of Machu Picchu and related lore. An extended segment features a 1976 archeological expedition led by Professor Edmundo Guillén of San Marcos University in Lima, Peru, which rediscovered the lost city of Vilcambama, the fabled last refuge of the Incas against the invading Spanish. The ISO camera crew goes on location to follow Guillén and his colleagues into the interior. Considering the heavy equipment sensitive to the extremities of weather, filming in a tropical jungle must have taxed both scholars and technicians; however, the results bring an authenticity to the documentary.

Note: While once available for viewing online, YouTube now blocks all In Search of . . . full episode uploads.