Project UFO: The Medicine Bow Incident

This is a great episode of this not-particularly-good series. Oh, it’s not exciting or interesting or anything, but it has some pretty amusing moments in it.

The two-and-a-half stories in this episode have one thing in common: DEATH RAYS! Before the refueling jets and temperature inversions were sending Earthlings messages of peace and friendship but now they’re zapping folks with ray beams! The half a story is what we lead off with. There’s a snow skier…and a UFO…and a snow skier…and a UFO…and a snow skier…and a UFO…seriously, for a full minute we alternate between the two until finally the skier sees the UFO at which point we forget about this for a while.

Then comes the second story, which is the best story! A guy running for County Supervisor is driving along when he spots a big ol flying saucer in the sky! We’re going to come back to this one because it’s superb.

The main story involves a commercial airliner, and it’s another one of those planes with, like, 12-foot ceilings and cocktail lounges and recliners and such. The plane encounters heavy turbulence and a large UFO that nearly collides with it. When Major Gatlin and Sergeant Heritage-Nothate* show up to investigate they find out that the “attack” on the plane required medical treatment for 40 passengers, 15 of whom were hospitalized, but the owner of the airline has hidden the pilots in an undisclosed location and won’t let them talk to anyone. Deregulation!

Gatlin uses his stony-faced monotoned charm to find out where the pilots are and the two go meet them. Since this is Project UFO, they meet them at a hotel and then immediately head over to the hospital where the passengers and flight attendant are. Why do in one minute what you can do in three? They separate the two and take statements from each of them.

That’s the UFO which the pilots, unfamiliar with boomerangs, describe as “boomerang-shaped”. They tell about it making a couple passes at the plane, each time requiring them to take evasive maneuvers. Then it hovered in front of them and shot at the plane with some kind of beam, which caused all manner of chaos in the plane, including T-Rex attacks.

It then heads to the other side of the plane and turns on the beam again, causing a window to pop out. I wasn’t sure that had happened at first because the window damage, which is pretty damn key, was uncharacteristically on the screen for only a second or so. But we then see all kinds of stuff flying around the spacious cabin: magazines, tablecloths, vases, decorative statuary, grand pianos, a cow that makes a comical face of confusion…what I’m saying here is that the cabin is very spacious. After this the UFO takes off and the pilots make an emergency landing.

The two pilots’ stories check out against each other, and they even draw identical pictures of the alleged spacecraft. Gatlin and Heritage-Nothate take all this evidence to their Top Men and then head out to talk to the politician, who Libby(!) has called to tell them about. (“Libby?” “Who’d you think it was, Mary Tyler Moore?”)

So here is this guy’s story. He’s driving along a lonely road at night, minding his own business, alone except for a young male hitchhiker he picked up, practicing a speech about family values, when suddenly the car stops. He’s just about to make a suggestion to the young man when suddenly a ginormous banana-shaped UFO appears.

It also fires out a beam except this one first strikes the road in front of the car, then the hood of the car, causing it to catch on fire. The guy gets his rifle out of the back of the car and takes a few shots at the saucer, but then the beam strikes the gun itself.

His barrel immediately goes limp! There won’t be any more shooting tonight, no sir! The boy corroborates this story and our stalwart heroes take some paint samples from the car hood and also the rifle for testing.

Meanwhile, the lab boys think they have an answer for what shook the airliner violently and caused two experienced pilots to take evasive maneuvers and an emergency landing: a weather balloon! Under certain circumstances a rogue balloon could look vaguely like the boomerang shape the UFO wasn’t, you see. The busted window? A stray piece of luggage during one of the dives could have done that. And it turns out that a weather balloon was actually reported as miss–ha ha no, they don’t try and find out if there were any balloons in the area that could have caused this. But that’s good enough for Gatlin and Heritage-Nothate! Weather balloon!

As for the politician? Turns out his UFO’s just a hoax. They found traces of plain old gasoline in the burned places and tooth marks from a vise on the gun. A politician, lying about what really happened in that car with the young man at night. Imagine!

But the kid has another secret. He DID see a UFO, earlier that day. See, he had been up in the mountains skiing…SEE? SEE WHAT THEY DID? He describes the exact same not-at-all-boomerang-shaped craft the pilots reported, and it fired beams at his ski poles!

They assure him it was just a weather balloon and drive off.

* — Not the character’s actual name.

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