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Project Blue Book Episode 1: "The Fuller Dogfight" Review


"The truth is like the sun. The more you look, the more it blinds." [SPOILERS AHEAD]

Who knew this year was going to start out full of aliens!? From Planet Weird's "Hellier" to this new History Channel series, we're seeing major platforms and media outlets quickly catching on to the outer space craze. Is it the possibility of finally putting humans on Mars looming in our imaginative futures? The lightning-fast spread of information (and misinformation) of alleged UFO encounters and the smartphone videos that accompany them? (It's unfortunate that in an age of hi-tech cameras our home videos still tend to be incredibly blurry and shaky, especially when it comes to already unexplainable phenomena). Whatever the case, alien fever is happening and we're all in its infectious grasp.

Project Blue Book is a dramatic retelling of the work of Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Aiden Gillen, Game of Thrones) during his time as a scientific advisor to the U.S. Air Force. The third such advisory iteration he actually worked on was called "Project Blue Book", in which he was partnered with Air Force Captain and former pilot Edward J. Ruppelt, (Michael Malarkey, The Vampire Diaries, but as a Captain Michael Quinn in the show). While this simple premise remains intact at the start of the episode, History takes it in an X-Files-esque direction (I'm not the first to say it) fairly quickly as their differing motivations and agendas become apparent. The dogfight of the episode title is a mid-air battle between another Air Force pilot and a mysterious, brightly lit craft that the government firmly declares is a weather balloon, using every justification possible to back that claim.

Quick Aside: We get this somewhat ancillary scene where Captain Quinn and Dr. Hynek fly an airplane to reenact the original pilot's flight path and interaction with a real weather balloon. They crash the plane, somewhat willingly on the Captain's part, only to prove his point and quickly "close the case" on this unexplainable situation that's left a pilot nearly catatonic in a hospital with no signs of recovery. I believe this crash scene acted as a means in which to stick our first MIB. I'm not sure if they were part of the historical account of Hynek's work, but here they are in all their mystifying glory on the History Channel. The Man In Black we first see is standing idly by the burning airplane wreckage, and to be honest, he's more of a Man in Hat than anything else. It's a very distinct hat. We see this man one more time after Hynek is forced off the road and into an abandoned carnival only to chase him down into a foggy warehouse looking building. The man has vanished but playing from a projector is a film with strange numbers and symbols repeating over and over. Fine, let's do the conspiracy thing. It's an alien show, so we have to, right?

The episode goes on to feel more enigmatic as it progresses, most notably when the injured pilot provides only murky, meaningless information about the strange encounter: the craft he battled with was controlling his plane remotely somehow, the song “How High the Moon” by Ella Fitzgerald was playing over his comms system from a radio station hundreds of miles away in his hometown at the time, said song was a communication method from the unknown craft, and that he was actually fired upon by this thing. This is all very spooky, and while I won't spoil the ending, I will mention that we do see this troubled pilot again before the hour is up and the implications are likely horrifying.

While we're clearly not going to get straightforward answers from this show, the viewer does get to see two contending sides of this mystery. The Air Force has officials who have superiors upon superiors, and they want all of this to be put to rest immediately. The round, eagle-adorned table scene at the beginning was particularly ominous, and implies the upper echelon of government KNOWS SOMETHING we don't. The innocent and skeptical (at first) Dr. Hynek wants the TRUTH and will, like all scientific, nerdy protagonists, stop at nothing to find it. Hynek even has a moment with his family that indicates the gravity of what he's now working on, and concludes that he cannot share any information with his wife and son.

His wife Mimi (Laura Mennell, Haven), however, has a situation of her own with a bottle blonde follower who, I GUESSED IT, ends up being an undercover spy of some sort. Susie Miller (Ksenia Solo, Turn: Washington's Spies) is too friendly and the storyline about department store shopping is too banal to be useless screen time. By the last scene we see her in, she's photographing the family from afar, complete with dramatic black and white photo stills to imply the surreptitiousness of it all. Does this mean there's an independent party keeping tabs on Hynek and his family and what they know? Or is the government going super extra covert ops here, sending in a Marilyn Monroe (or maybe Black Dahlia) character to watch him? We're in the dark here as of yet, and my lack of knowledge on the account of the real Project Blue Book leaves me guessing on this part. I'll keep the mystery alive and refrain from that Google search.

In "The Fuller Dogfight", we see the military's objective and the good scientist's objective, and how they misalign but are forced to coexist in tense and quite often mysterious circumstances. The alien aircraft may or may not be "real" in the series so far, but the presentation of the unknown is affecting and subtle. Clearly this won't be a dramatic retelling with a simple outcome of solid evidence or debunked eyewitness accounts. The preview teaser for next week's episode looks like the show will be served in a flavor-of-the-week style, with subplots concerning the family spy and Dr. Hynek's search for the truth (as History wants to present it), evolving over the next 9 episodes. We do know for a fact that the actual case files from Project Blue Book are what the episodes draw inspiration from. I'm excited for this series so far, and given the high-quality drama the History Channel is known to create (Vikings!) I don't see the hype or the storyline doing a nose-dive before it's wrapped up.

🛸 Project Blue Book airs every Tuesday night at 9pm EST

on the History Channel.

I'll be reviewing each episode of Project Blue Book after it airs every week. If you liked this review, please subscribe to the blog to be notified of new posts. A like or share goes a long way!

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