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Where Are All the Ufos?

The approach taken in the two-hour program is far from dry, however. Producer-director Scott Paddor hedges with a hyperbolic tone. Skepticism of the title question is undercut by sensationalized setups and transitions delivered by narrator Michael Dorn ("Star Trek: The Next Generation"). For example, after claiming there's little substance to reports of alien visitations, the question is begged: "Where then do these aliens come from?" Documentary's strength is in describing how historical perspective determines such stories or sightings. They are shaped by a specific worldview and reflect contemporary, local concerns. UFOs and aliens are our version of angels, goblins and leprechauns.

The approach taken in the two-hour program is far from dry, however. Producer-director Scott Paddor hedges with a hyperbolic tone. Skepticism of the title question is undercut by sensationalized setups and transitions delivered by narrator Michael Dorn (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”). For example, after claiming there’s little substance to reports of alien visitations, the question is begged: “Where then do these aliens come from?” Documentary’s strength is in describing how historical perspective determines such stories or sightings. They are shaped by a specific worldview and reflect contemporary, local concerns. UFOs and aliens are our version of angels, goblins and leprechauns.

TX: TX:Produced by Greystone Communications for A&E Networks. Executive producers, Craig Haffner, Donna Lusitana, Michael E. Katz; producer, Scott Paddor; coordinating producer, Lois Yaffee; director, Scott Paddor; Orson Welles’ 1939 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” was a watershed, but the term flying saucer wasn’t coined until 1947, when pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed to have seen 9 skipping disks over Mt. Rainier. Perhaps the most intriguing incident occurred that same year in Roswell, N.M., where the crash of a UFO was allegedly covered up by the Air Force.

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Photo analysts demonstrate that the vast majority of sightings are atmospheric anomalies or human hoaxes. During the ’50s and throughout the Cold War, the UFO craze was fed by popular magazines, books, movies and rallies (some connected to the antinuclear movement).

A Canadian neuroscientist tries to explain away abduction stories — which tend to share a scenario and include strikingly similar descriptions of aliens — using the brain’s anatomy and electrical patterns.

One self-proclaimed abductee can hardly keep a straight face. Another describes his abductor as dressed “like a Greyhound bus driver.”

The more recent phenomenon of “crop circles,” which has spawned magazines such as “The Cerealogist,” is revealed to be a hoax perpetrated by crop circle artists. Still, a sliver of credence is given to a handful of occurrences that have never been adequately explained, including one in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C.

Tech credits are up to par, with an abundance of clips and interviews skillfully pieced together. Documentary ends on a hopeful and scientifically viable note showing efforts to receive communications from other life forms in the universe.

“Science tells us to expect distant, not close encounters.” Diehards will be unmoved, while curious and impartial viewers will have their hopes raised and dashed. UFOs say more about human nature than about extraterrestrials, so “Where Are All the UFOs?” necessarily leaves the door open for belief in alien visitations. But just a crack.

Where Are All the Ufos?

  • Production: Where Are All the UFOs? (Sun. (12), 8-10 p.m., A&E)
  • Crew: Camera, Brian Callahan, Greg Davis, Paul Dougherty, Wojtek Kozlowski, Chuck Lichtenauer, Mike Messenheimer, Richard Numeroff, Dave Pryke, Tom Zanes; editor, Michael W. Andrews; sound, Joe Bungert, Joe Crabb, Ann Gauer, Jim Goertel, Lee Hart, Sean Keeping, Roger Raiford; music, Christopher L. Stone.
  • With: Narrator: Michael Dorn. "Where Are All the UFOs?" Answer: Firmly lodged in the public imagination and perhaps even in the makeup of the human brain, but nowhere else, according to the hard evidence. A&E special gives a good historical overview of "flying saucer" phenomena while debunking at every turn.
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