By Steve Hammons
It was a TV series ahead of its time. Consider it advance reconnaissance information.
Airing on Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. in 1996 and 1997 on NBC, “Dark Skies” took viewers inside a secret U.S. government group dealing with UFOs and strange visitors.
Yet, time and certain situations sometimes have a way of circling around in surprising ways.
Nearly 15 years later, the series is now once again in the public consciousness and is reaching a new and expanding audience with the release of “Dark Skies: The Declassified Complete Series” DVD collection.
The show features two twenty-something characters, John Loengard (played by Eric Close) and Kimberly Sayers (Megan Ward), who come to Washington, D.C., from California in 1961.
Loengard is hired as an aide to a California congressman and Sayers lands a job in the office of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
WELCOME TO MAJESTIC-12
When Loengard conducts routine research for the congressman’s office on topics like funding of the Air Force’s “Project Blue Book” at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and interviews alleged UFO “abductees” Betty and Barney Hill, he comes into unpleasant contact with a covert group that the “Dark Skies” writers (and many others) have called “Majestic-12” or simply “Majestic.”
After he is initially intimidated and roughed up by Majestic agents led by Navy officers in plainclothes, Loengard is recruited into the group and transforms from a naïve and optimistic citizen into a hardened, though somewhat frightened, undercover agent who wavers between working for the group and breaking off as a “lone wolf.”
However, he is a lone wolf with a beautiful girlfriend (Ward). Although their romance lends warmth and emotional depth to the story, threats to the Kim Sayers character take dark turns.
In some episodes we go back to the alleged 1947 Roswell incident and even to ancient times when North American Indians are visited by “sky people.”
The creators and writers of the series, Brent Friedman and Bryce Zabel, have done their research on the many elements of the UFO phenomena and it shows in “Dark Skies.”
In fact, Zabel, a former TV journalist at PBS and CNN, recently co-authored a non-fiction book about the inside story on UFOs with historian Richard Dolan titled A.D. After Disclosure: The People’s Guide to Life After Contact.
Public awareness about visitation to Earth of extraterrestrial and/or other intelligent beings is different in 2011 than it was in 1996.
Today, respected scientists openly discuss the possibilities of contact with other intelligent life.
Reputable journalists like Zabel, Leslie Kean and others provide solid information and insight about the situation. Kean’s recently-published book UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record presents a very credible look at certain important developments.
And, the general public can’t help but notice the unusual UFO incidents in recent years such as those in Phoenix (1997), at Chicago’s O’Hare airport (2006) and in the Stephenville, Texas, region (2008). All three of these incidents were covered nationally and internationally in the mainstream press.
Are various kinds of visitors in exotic spacecraft trying to tell us they are here?
Are people associated with the U.S. (and international) defense and intelligence communities also providing acclimation to prepare us for this unconventional emerging situation?
How does “Dark Skies” fit in?
OVERT AND COVERT
The series uses a unique blend of history, reasonable speculation about UFOs and creativity to look at important issues and events during the period from 1961 to 1967. Zabel and Friedman present an alternative view of the ‘60s, merging real people and circumstances of that era with possible clandestine scenarios.
They ask us to consider many “what ifs.” What if the public story of past events is part of a larger and more complicated picture? “History as we know it is a lie” ... this is the line from the Emmy Award-winning main title opening sequence of “Dark Skies.”
We might also ask what the truth is about our current situation with regard to UFOs, unconventional visitors, expanded human consciousness and other edge-science theories and realities.
And, what does the future hold?
By opening our minds to many possibilities, we can probably enhance our psychological, social and cultural readiness to deal with challenging developments.
In this sense, the reappearance of “Dark Skies” on the public and media scene may be very helpful and even trigger new creative communication efforts that both entertain and enhance understanding of leading-edge scientific topics.
The collection includes all 18 episodes that aired on NBC including the two-hour pilot. Extra features of the DVD set include the two-hour international pilot shown in Europe.
The 2010 documentary “Signal To Noise: Uncovering Dark Skies” is particularly enlightening, featuring a discussion between the creators Friedman and Zabel along with views and insight by the show’s main stars Close and Ward. (It is nice to see that Ward is more beautiful now than ever.)
Viewers can also watch the first and last episodes with the option of an audio overlay of interesting and fun commentary among Friedman, Zabel, Close and Ward. Behind-the-scenes stories and incidents about the making of the series are fascinating.
Information about pitching the series to NBC, the original sales presentation, network promos that aired and other background information are also included in the DVD collection.
The “Dark Skies” DVD set can be ordered from Shout Factory! home video company. A valuable related resource is the website about Zabel's and Dolan's new book at AfterDisclosure.com.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
By Steve Hammons
Saturday, December 11, 2010
By Steve Hammons
The recent and ongoing controversy about releases of sensitive information seems to raise both new and longstanding fundamental points about freedom of the press and the role of journalism in society.
An aspect of the discussion that appears to many people as an odd side issue is the reference to unidentified flying objects (UFOs) in some documents or materials.
However, this topic might serve as a unique example about the way we look at the roles of journalism, government and citizens on an issue that could be both important to know about and also require discretion and sensitivity.
Today’s journalists and many other segments of society face continual changes in the evolving economy, technological development, scientific updates and the many other aspects of everyday life.
Journalism in particular is dealing with longstanding ethical and professional guidelines about freedom of the press and responsible reporting. These are combined with a changing landscape of Internet technology and certain characteristics of major media companies.
The touchstone of the U.S. Constitution and its provisions outlining freedom of speech and freedom of the press continue to be fundamental reference points. Many of the U.S. Constitution’s other attempts to strengthen human liberty are equally valuable and often equally controversial.
The task of balancing these freedoms with responsible behavior and common-sense discretion is now front and center in discussions about various current events.
And, odd as it may seem, the UFO subject is one of these current challenges.
Just like other sensitive subjects involving national security, some people who have researched the UFO situation claim that a high level of restriction by governments on information about UFOs is interfering with the right of citizens to know what their governments are doing.
And, the argument extends to the view that human beings at the grassroots of society have a need to know about certain subjects that could affect them, including unusual and unconventional discoveries and developments.
The counterpoint to this view is that some subjects must be kept secret for the sake of the greater good of maintaining national defense. And, in many cases, international alliances and friendships among nations and societies are also at stake.
How should the profession and craft of journalism handle these factors?
When the additional challenges of certain perspectives by media bosses in a time of changing economic dynamics come into play, journalists are now, as they often have been, faced with soul-searching dilemmas.
REPORTING ON MYSTERIES
In the case of unusual and unconventional scientific subjects, additional obstacles for journalism include self-censorship by media management and often by certain elements of scientific communities. These factors may also dovetail with defense-related information restriction for reasons of strategic national and global safety as well as tactical operational security.
Despite the statements from people with various viewpoints that decisions and judgment about the balance between security and freedom of the press are easy and clear cut, this is probably not always the case.
As we know, sometimes a “top secret” classification is used to cover up wrongdoing and inappropriate conduct.
At the same time, other classified situations, including highly compartmented and need-to-know circumstances, might truly require robust information security for a number of legitimate reasons.
According to some researchers, the UFO situation falls into a complex category of emerging scientific developments that could significantly change our views of Earth, the universe, life and the human race. It may be quite complex because the various kinds of unusual flying objects seen over the decades and centuries are probably associated with even more surprising mysteries.
Extraterrestrial visitors, multiple dimensions, space-time anomalies, forgotten histories of human civilization, undiscovered aspects of human DNA, extrasensory perception and other edge-science subjects have all been linked to the UFO phenomena, both directly and indirectly.
Some researchers indicate that may only be the tip of the iceberg.
Responsible journalism on these kinds of subjects seems to have been somewhat limited to date. But that does not mean today’s journalists are incapable of handling the situation responsibly and professionally.
Understanding various security implications of unconventional situations that could affect the safety of American and global society must be part of journalistic considerations and judgment.
Important foundational elements of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are also factors that are key parts of responsible journalism in days past, now and in the future.