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May 2011

Aliens From Outer Space

director: Bill Knell

240 minutes (n/r) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Chemical Burn / Reality
NTSC DVD Region 1

RATING: 1/10
review by Ian Sales

Aliens From Outer Space

The Fermi paradox states that given the size and age of the universe, it is statistically certain that other technologically advanced civilisations exist, but no evidence supporting this has ever been found. There are those, however, who would have you believe such evidence is common and frequent. The Earth, they claim, has been visited throughout history by aliens, that these visitors have encountered and studied humans, and that they are secretly in cahoots with assorted national governments. Naturally, this runs counter to common sense. The universe is huge, and travelling through it is both very difficult and very expensive. Having spent all that time and energy crossing untold light years, for alien visitors to land secretly in some US backwater and then stick probes up a redneck's backside appears extremely unlikely. It seems a somewhat narrow area of study for a race whose curiosity and ingenuity has brought them across such unimaginable distances to our planet.

In Aliens From Outer Space, subtitled 'UFO landings, crashes and retrievals', UFO researcher Bill Knell lays out the evidence for UFO visitations, and the government conspiracies which have kept this fact hidden for almost a century. The documentary is presented as four hours of slideshow, with a voiceover by Knell. When Knell makes mistakes - slips of the tongue, or flubbing words - he doesn't re-dub but simply corrects himself and carries on. I suspect the 'film' was knocked together on Knell's home computer. It is an entirely amateur production.

The content is equally unimpressive. If you believe in flying saucers, Aliens From Outer Space is not going to change your mind. If you do not believe in them, Aliens From Outer Space is only going to convince that those who do believe are deluded fools. Knell's concept of 'evidence' requires serious re-thinking, for a start. A reported incident is still anecdotal, it is not irrefutable evidence. And when, in response to a letter supporting the presence of UFOs and allegedly written by a senior NASA official, NASA point out that they have no copy of the letter themselves, and indeed the letter's reference number is one that NASA has never used... this is not proof of a conspiracy. It means the letter is a fake.

In 1979, David Langford wrote a spoof alien encounter book, An Account Of Meeting With Denizens Of Another World, 1871, which purported to be a true-life account of an alien encounter by Victorian gentleman William Robert Loosely. Langford, the 'editor' of the found manuscript, declared that it had "passed every test to which it was subjected" [emphasis mine]. That book has now entered UFO mythology as one of the first recorded encounters with alien visitors. It is this eager grasping at straws which characterises much UFOlogical research. Knell is not unusual in this regard. There is a lack of scientific rigour in many of arguments. Not to mention that some of the incidents he covers are known to be fakes.

It is this disregard for scientific rigour and common sense which characterises most studies of UFOs. Occam's razor is not in their toolbox. Given the most obvious solution for a situation, UFOlogists will pick the one that best fits with their beliefs. It is likely that many of the unexplainable UFO incidents of the Cold War were manufactured by the military-industrial complex as part of a complex misinformation campaign designed to protect military secrets. Other unexplainable incidents probably had perfectly natural causes, but eyewitnesses were too unsophisticated to realise this.

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the whole phenomenon is the meta-narrative which has arisen out of it. It is not enough for a series of probes - analogous to, say, the space probes sent by NASA and Roskosmos to the Moon, Venus, and Mars - to have visited Earth in search of scientific knowledge. The probes' motives may be unknowable, their form may vary from one incident to the next, the technology which drives them may be magical to our untutored eyes... but this is insufficient. There must be a pattern. Humans demand it. The UFOs must be craft from specific alien civilisations - Greys, for example; or lizards from Zeta Reticulae. Their actions must have purpose, must be part of a great plot, a secret plot known only to the privileged and powerful.

It is not enough that an average person feels fear at how their lives are being increasingly controlled by an impersonal bureaucracy - and it is a chiefly American fear, driving both libertarian and conservative politics - and so threatening their ability to choose how to live their life. It is not enough that the government apparatus is beyond the power of one person to influence or control... There has to be some secret cabal underlying and managing this bureaucracy. Some believe it is the Freemasons, the Illuminati, or some secret plutocratic council. Others believe it is aliens.

Yet while the meta-narrative seeks to understand the story of 'aliens from outer space', no such narrative attaches to the visitors' purpose for controlling Earth and its inhabitants. If there is a resolution to this story, there are no signposts to it. If there is foreshadowing, it is too subtle to be read. On the other hand, it could simply be that the only narrative which exists is the one supplied by those who invented the conspiracy. It is perhaps no coincidence that many of these secret alien bases are within military installations - such as in Dulce, New Mexico, at Montauk Air Force Station, New York. The misinformation contained only what was needed, and it is UFO mythology which has subsequently made of it one giant story.

Which is not to say that UFOlogy has not had its share of fakes and charlatans. Langford's spoof may have only ever been intended as fiction, but there are those present themselves as bona fide experts and their 'knowledge' as fact. Some of these present themselves as experts - for whatever reason. Others are 'eyewitnesses' and it is gullible researchers who propagate their lies. Many such, resort to risible codenames, such as 'Commander X', in order to - supposedly - protect their identities.

Aliens From Outer Space is an amateur piece of work which does nothing to convince a sceptic, or present anything remotely like plausible evidence in support of its thesis. Given its subject matter, it would not be unreasonable to expect it to entertain on some level. But it doesn't. It is long and dull. If it were someone you met in a pub, you'd make an excuse and walk away after five minutes. You certainly wouldn't listen to them for four hours. Or pay for the privilege of doing so.



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