Monday, July 20, 2015

In Search of...Atlantis

by G. Jack Urso
 

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 nearly 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 often referred to an ancient computer, 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 to his narration 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 contribute 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 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.

Digital copy of an original 16-mm print uploaded from my personal archives:



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