Project Blue Book

“This series is inspired by Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s investigations for the U.S. Air Force into the existence of UFOs. The cases depicted are based on real events.” So opens the first episode of History’s Project Blue Book, a historical period drama examining the USAF official investigation into the phenomena, running from 1952 to 1970.

Established to collate and analyse data on unidentified flying objects and determine if they were a threat to the national security of the United States of America, Project Blue Book was the third such governmental investigation following projects Sign and Grudge of 1947 and 1949; upon its dissolution, Project Blue Book concluded there was no evidence to support the public belief that UFOs were extraterrestrial in nature or that they represented a threat.

Despite that opening promise of veracity which echoes a similar statement which launched The X-Files in 1993, the first episode of Project Blue Book takes a very different approach from the official position of the declassified cases and the previous television series inspired by them, 1978’s Project U.F.O. (broadcast in some countries as Project Blue Book), taking broad latitude in its approach towards whatever truth may be out there.

Written by executive producer David O’Leary and directed by special effects artist Robert Stromberg, The Fuller Dogfight sees Captain Michael Quinn (The Vampire Diaries‘ Michael Malarkey) seconded from the Wright-Paterson Air Force Base at the order of General James Harding (Arrow‘s Neal McDonough) and sent to investigate a UFO encounter in Fargo, North Dakota, reported by pilot Lieutenant Henry Fuller (Matt O’Leary).

Partnered with astronomer Josef Hynek (Game of Thrones‘ Aiden Gillen), Quinn’s objective is made clear: to quell the burgeoning hysteria over strange lights in the sky which is a concern at a time when the national focus should be on the more tangible threat of Russia, Hynek being the tool he will use to offer scientific explanations to debunk and discredit the irrational belief.

Opening with the encounter presented in full, Project Blue Book presents the audience the fait accompli of the aerial engagement when a more honest representation would be an after-the-event examination of witnesses and scant physical evidence; despite Hynek commenting that there is a big difference between science fiction and informed speculation, that is a distinction Project Blue Book has consciously chosen to ignore.

Taken instead as a pure drama rather than a historical document, Project Blue Book can be judged by a different standard, simply whether it is any good or not, but despite the high production values and the strong period feel it has as yet no identity to call its own, over-dramatised and too eager to set itself up as conspiracy thriller tying together disparate elements of UFO lore.

As if the parallels with The X-Files were not already unavoidable simply from the premise, between figures lurking at crash sites, shadowy basement cabals, a numbers station and Hynek’s wife Mimi (The Man in the High Castle‘s Laura Mennell) new best friend (Lost Girl‘s Ksenia Solo) who is not what she seems, Project Blue Book will need to find its own identity swiftly if it is not to crash like a deflated weather balloon.



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