Moon:Mars July 26, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Moon.
Well… what of this, Alternative 3, produced for ITV as a spoof documentary in 1977. I remember watching it at the time, I’m not sure if I knew at that time that it was April Fools, although it wasn’t broadcast during April, which sort of undermined the point of the exercise.
This, again, was one of those pieces of television culture that were consumed with incredible enthusiasm by myself and my friends. We loved this and would talk about and around the topic afterwards. And in such a way as to nearly gift it the mark of authenticity even though we either knew, or rapidly discovered soon afterwards, that it was a construct. In fact I have a vivid memory from the week after the programme was aired of reading a tiny snippet in what I think was the Guardian saying that it was fake.
What it purported to be was an account of the disappearance of a number of scientists, a link with the space programme, or rather a secret space programme and a video tape which when decoded was meant to show the first landing on Mars by a joint Soviet/American team in the early to mid-1960s which…
Well, I’ll stop there and let you discover for yourself.
It comes in various parts, which you must judge for yourself whether they are worth viewing. In truth it’s as interesting for the insight into documentary techniques of the period as it is for its content. Ropey title sequence? Check. Stilted interviews? Check. Avuncular older man as presenter? Check. Alcoholic former US astronaut eaten up by a secret too large to be able to contain? er… check.
Thing is that this was actually the final programme of a genuine series of science documentaries, Science Report, which Anglia Television had axed. The producers decided to go out on a spoof. And not only but also the theme music and incidental music was supplied by Brian Eno.
There’s an accompanying novel, which was pretty silly, but notable in the way it fed into what would later be UFO mythology of animal experimentation. And the programme itself, obviously, can be regarded as a forerunner of all the Moon hoax nonsense or perhaps a sub-genre of covert space programmes and collusion between Soviets and the US. Actually the more I think about it the more it strikes me that this is a perfect encapsulation of future concerns, from ecological disaster to conspiracy theories and so on.
I have to say kudos to the sequence at the very end which you can watch here… Houston and Murmansk… yeah. Right.
I presume it was taken from a helicopter over a desert or beach, certainly the ‘surface’ of Mars looks convincingly… well… Martian. The treatment of the footage is near brilliant, all crackles and interference. And as with all the best such fictions it leaves one with the wish that it had happened even as one realises it never could.
These are pretty jerky, but if you go searching you’ll find higher quality ones…
I’m not entirely surprised to find that Monster Magnet’s excellent “Third Alternative” from “Dopes to Infinity” is based on this…