As a frequent viewer of shows and series dealing with various theories in the realm of alien life and UFOs, it comes as no surprise to me that I was handed the new series from National Geographic, UFOs: Investigating the Unknown, for review.
Let me tell you right off the bat, if you’re seeing that title and think this is going to be something akin to what you might see on certain cable networks that will try to convince you with 1000% certainty that everything is alien in origin, this is not that show.
Instead, what viewers will find is a carefully crafted historical arc surrounding the investigation (or rather, lack thereof) of unidentified aerial phenomena and unidentified flying objects. In fact, the docuseries makes it a point numerous times throughout to emphasize the stigma of the term “UFO” and now, “UAP.” It all begins with a relatively recent New York Times article and the bombshell reveal that there had been a small government group tasked with investigating such incidents and sightings, and whether or not they can be considered threats to National security or the safety of the airspace.
Using the template from today, the series points out different sightings and incidents throughout the last 60ish years and points out the parallels from then to now, and the lack of Government oversight investigating the occurrences, even when other international agencies are taking them very seriously.
Where other networks and series are quick to point out the same instances and agencies again and again (Area 51, Roswell, Rendlesham Forest, The Majestic 12, etc) in a conspiratorial nature, the new Nat Geo series shines lights on mass sightings that are largely unheard of or forgotten outside deeply rooted UFO fan communities to say “this is why we need a fully transparent government investigation.”
It also takes an often unseen look at what was known as Project Blue Book, and presents it as the realistic five person team led by J. Allen Hynek that would “investigate” sightings during the Cold War by largely discrediting them (Swamp Gas, anyone?) as opposed to the other take seen on more common UFO fare that presents the group as evolving into the “Men In Black,” seeking silence and cover-ups more than anything else. Hynek is a recurring figure throughout the series, and his growth from government science agent into scientist-for-the-witnesses is one of the most compelling of the series and has you rooting for the cause alongside him. Especially when we get to his input and position with legendary film director Steven Spielberg, who worked with him on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
I love that the series takes a truly scientific approach, and is walking on a razor thin line emphasizing that they are not saying these crafts and phenomena are alien in origin, but rather they don’t know what they are, and that is cause for further investigation. Viewers of those other shows might recognize some of the key players in the background at media panels and conferences, but it feels like the series goes out of their way to ignore them as they are more associated with the conspiracy theories and alien hype than the actual science and studying approach. That’s not to say the idea of “little green men” and aliens aren’t mentioned at all, but again, the emphasis that “we don’t know for sure” is the root cause of the study. Thanks to the credibility and gravitas from those involved and the brilliant use of amazing and rarely seen archival footage (and the National Geographic brand), by the end, you too are championing the cause, siding with the pilots, air traffic controllers, and journalists who are using the platform to plead for a full government investigation authority.
UFOs: Investigating the Unknown is unlike anything else with UFO in the title, and serves as a brilliant jumping point for discussion that you won’t find anywhere else. 4.5/5. You can find it on the National Geographic network and streaming now on Hulu.