UFOs. Probable extraterrestrials. Investigation and revelation. Nazi scientists. A military cover-up. With all these elements in place the History Channel’s Project Blue Book should be an exciting, unpredictable replacement for The X-Files. Instead it is a dull-as-dishwater procedural that lacks tension, drama and political relevance.
Project Blue Book is a (fairly loose) adaptation of the real story of US Air Force investigations into UFOs involving Dr J Allan Hynek – an astrophysics professor who would later become a renowned ufologist. As a premise for a TV series, it is not only a good one, it’s arguably long overdue.
The problem is that the series is really boring. Each episode begins with a reconstruction of a famous UFO event – the pilot episode features the Gorman Dogfight in North Dakota. Then, in come Hynek and Air Force Captain Michael Quinn to investigate. So far, so X-Files. And that’s the issue for me – the whole show feels like a weak attempt to replace the X-Files, with Hynek playing the Mulder role of the believer and Quinn playing the Scully role as the sceptic.
There’s some decent back and forth between the two lead actors – who make the most of a fairly predictable script – and the production values of the reconstructions are solid. But after a couple of episodes it felt to me like there was nowhere for the show to go – Hynek can’t prove UFOs are real because then the show is over, so the two have to remain in lockstep, debating back and forth about weather balloons, swamp gases, owls standing on the tops of trees and other plausible, scientific explanations for what witnesses report having seen.
That is to say, exactly what happened with the X-Files.
While the senior military commanders are evidently up to something, and engaging in a cover-up, there again it seems to be the same in every episode. We’re clear that something is going on, but we don’t know what. By the next episode we’re no clearer, so it feels like being led around in the same circle repeatedly, with no end in sight. Having got as far as the sixth episode, I doubt I will finish the season because the show has given me no reason to expect any dramatic revelations. It will simply remain in a state of dramatic suspended animation, unable to move forward because doing so jeopardises the show’s continued existence and therefore its commercial potential.
While for some UFOlogists and people fascinated by the topic it will provide some fairly light entertainment, for anyone not hooked on UFOs or who expect some kind of development in their TV dramas it will likely be disappointing. Like so much of modern TV, it’s a good hook and a promising premise, but the follow-up is a damn squid of repetition and predictability. From what I know, the real history is a lot more interesting than this television version.