Project UFO: The Howard Crossing Incident

We get two major plots and one stupid one in this episode, and neither of the plots really follows up on its potential. We also get a few seconds of Libby teased to us, but then she’s gone. She’s about the only thing the camera doesn’t linger on or pad out.

The first story involves a man and woman who walk down a white corridor to a window. Behind it is a flying saucer, attended to by people in cleansuits. A voice tells them that soon orders for these saucers will pour in from all over the globe and their stock is worth millions!

These two (the husband, mostly) have bought stock in the Advanced Aerodynamics Corporation, which claims to be building flying saucers powered by anti-matter (which generates anti-gravity) based on blueprints provided by aliens. The husband has dumped all their money into this stock and intends to buy more.

The wife goes to a discussion of UFOs in which Major Gatlin speaks, along with Professor Hollander, who seems to be an analogue for Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a name that won’t mean much to you unless you grew up reading all about UFOs in the 70s and 80s. Afterwards she asks Major Gatlin if this AAC Flying Saucer company sounds legit and, since we have an hour to fill here, he tells her to go to the SEC or the FBI or someone else. She eventually goes to the FBI who then say they want to work with Major Gatlin and Sgt. Moonshinehoedown*.

When our heroes see a photo of the saucer they realize it’s identical to the one from the movie, The Day the Earth Trembled. Their big plan for busting AAC involves Sgt. Moonshinehoedown pretending to be interested in buying stock, him buying stock, and then the FBI immediately busting the CEO for stock fraud. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and in a coda at the end of the episode, the husband is mad because he still thinks he was going to make millions.

The second plot involves a family in Kentucky besieged by green glowing aliens after the daughter sees a UFO land nearby. It’s clearly based on the “Hopkinsville Goblins” incident. This is promising, because that story is genuinely fascinating and creepy — it’s one of the best UFO stories out there.

Sadly, it gets into the hands of this bunch and is drained of most of its excitement. Instead we get a god-fearing patriarch (played by, I am not lying, Leif Erickson) and his bland god-fearing family. The aliens are simply bright green glows (which do look especially odd since, because this is a 1970s show, everything else is beige) that make burbly noises.

They seem to be surrounding the house and peeking in the windows (prompting the family to take out their own living room window with a shotgun blast) but otherwise not acting particularly menacing. At some point they just leave.

Our heroes show up with two extra people in tow. One guy, who’s a soil analysis expert, and a psychologist, who is there simply to assure the god-fearing patriarch that nobody thinks they’re crazy. (This doesn’t work.) Apart from the soil samples, Gatlin and Moonshinehoedown talk to the family’s banker to find out that the father is well thought of and not a credit risk. Jack Webb knew that people didn’t want to see alien beings terrorizing a rural family, they wanted to know how solid that family’s assets were.

In the end it turns out the aliens were…well, heck, we have no idea. Once again, they weren’t kind enough to leave any radiation traces or impact impressions or whatever the hell else Project Blue Book wants to see, so they got nothing. Professor Hollander shows up trying to get the family to take their story public and capitalize on it, but Leif Erickson will have none of it, as he is a god-fearing man. (Seriously, there is a hint of an attempt to compare the UFO phenomenon to religion, but it’s not explored in much depth.)

The final stupid plot point involves our protagonists traveling by commercial plane from one of these places to another. There’s an extended section where Gatlin talks to the pilots about flying airplanes and the Sergeant tries and fails to hit on a stewardess by telling her about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I am completely 100% for real honest. Check out this plane they’re on:

No wonder we’ve hit peak oil. How much fuel did it take to fly around luxury hotels in the 70s?

Anyway, this all gets interrupted by some old biddy hollering about the plane being chased by a UFO. Turns out it’s just the moon, reflected on a lake below, and seen through clouds, but she’ll hear none of it. At one point she even says, “There is no airplane that flies above the moon!” and I guess I can’t argue with that.

* — Not the character’s actual name.

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