Wednesday, November 26, 2008

UFOS OVER EARTH: Bucks County Flap (2008)

Discovery Channel - Original Air Date: 11/24/08

There's a new player in the UFO hunt, though it remains to be seen whether this show will be a perennial player, or if it's just a flash in the pan (I.E. a pilot that doesn't pan out -- Disc. seems to be showing a lot of "one shots" in their Monday night time slot right now).  This episode looks at a spate of recent (spring and summer 2008) sightings in Pensylvania.  After interviewing a number of witnesses, the investigators -- all members of MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network) -- narrow their focus to two witnesses.  One is a retiree, who seems very credible and has no obvious reason to make up his two sightings, and the other is a woman who claims both multiple sightings and to have pictures of the alleged UFO.  Unfortunately, the first witness has no actual proof, just a compelling story.  So the MUFON folks recreate his sighting using their CGI equipment, and filddle with the simulation until the witness approves the octagonal-shaped craft and the sighting conditions.

The woman witness proves both more interesting and problematic.  Her picture evidence is unimpressive (the usual blurred lights), and one image even seems to match up to the position of the moon and Jupiter on the night in question.  Additionally, she claims to have seen some kind of glittering dust falling from the UFO into one of the trees in her yard, only to have the dust then return to the UFO.  Despite claiming that this phenomnon lasted 20 minutes, she has no photos.  The group takes cuttings from the tree and sends them to a scientist, who claims that the tree was subjected to radiation which caused mutation in the leaves.  Fortunately (for science), the group then sends the sample to another expert, who says the first expert is totally wrong; there is no evidence of either radiation or mutation.  I was impressed by this, as most shows of this kind consistently fail to get a second opinion -- prefering to go with the most sensational finding (and dubious expert) possible.  The group also re-creates the woman's sighting, and she is very moved by the compupter-generated recreation.  This makes the group believe that she is sincere, though they retain some skepticism about her report.  This would be my only reservation about this episode -- that they give a witness more leeway than perhaps they should.  (To me, at least, the dust part of her sighting seems more like a waking dream.)  Fortunately, the MUFON folks make up for this lapse of "toughness" in the Mexico show.  (See following review.)

This show is to MUFON what UFO Hunters is to UFO Magazine -- that is, the program seems to be built around the people in the group and their interests.  And I have to say, from what I've seen so far, I find this show much more interesting.  Where UFO Hunters (the History Channel one, not the SciFi series which had one show and then disappeared -- seemingly for good) is built around UFO mythology and "investigating" classic sightings -- nearly all of which seem to be more than 20 years old.  This show is tackling sightings that are current (2008 as this is written).  I find the immediacy much more compelling.  The witnesses have had less time to become "set" in their stories, or to forget or embelish details.  (Though, as regular readers know, I don't put a lot of stock in witness reports; see the review of Unsolved History: Roswell - a.k.a. UFOs Over America for a scientific study of witness' memory.)  Also, the MUFON crew seems much more interested in finding out what's really happening than in building the UFO mythology.  In the Mexico show (see review), they even state this goal specifically.  So far, I'm favorably impressed.  The "crew" may not be as flashy and memorable as UFO Hunters or Ghost Hunters, but they're serious about their work and asking the hard questions that UFO Hunters -- for one -- seldom wants to ask.

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