Project UFO should have been a nerdy 10-year old’s dream: a UFO show every week on TV! Sadly, though, its geological pacing and reliance on UFOs that don’t do much of anything except be seen and subsequently investigated was no match for staying in my room playing with Star Wars figures. As a result, I don’t remember most of the shows I’ve talked about here, even though we’re only seven episodes into the run.
This one, however, is an exception. I remember the bit about the glass that we’ll get to in a moment, though I remembered it being on a beach, not in a wooded clearing. Still, it’s evidence that I did watch some of this show when it originally aired.
This episode is also proof that Topher Grace was spot-on for That 70s Show:
Eric Foreman there is one of four kids who, parked in a remote spot for some smooching, see a glowing object land nearby. He and his buddy, who looks like That 70s John C. Reilly, go to investigate and see this UFO, with a handle for easy carrying:
The UFO blinks a light at them and then busts out a big old searchlight. They panic and run off back to the girls, who they bravely left behind in the car.
That’s it. That’s their “encounter”. And what do they get? A standard “nobody believes us because we’re just a bunch of teenagers” story. The principal doesn’t believe them. Neither does the sheriff, the local newspaper, the girls’ parents, or a judge. At once point the sheriff says the town wants the boys arrested for something, anything, and a judge finds them guilty of perpetuating a hoax. Major Gatlin has to step in and say, “Uh, we’re investigating this thing, so maybe wait until we’re done with that?”
The investigation involves some pretty well-defined landing prints that Fisk uses his poker-thinger (not any more suggestive a term than “penetrometer” or whatever its real name is) to determine was made by a 13-ton object. There’s then a hilarious moment where they walk away from one of these small depressions to a giant goddamn crater that nobody has mentioned and we haven’t been shown before. In that crater are burn marks and bits of what seem like glass…possibly caused by immense heat. There’s also a sassafras branch torn off in a way that no human could tear off a branch. (We later, and I am not fooling here, find out that Fitz, who identified the branch by smell, was wrong about the type of tree, which he claims is because he was a little stuffed up. Goofy as that is, it’s actual character development and I am not going to criticize that!)
On top of all this, the newspaper receives some photos taken by the Brawny paper towel guy:
“These could change everything!” “Holy cow!” “Look at these!” they all say, showing us no views of the amazing pictures.
Naturally the kids have some allies…other kids. The high school “science club” (I played the scene twice to make sure they hadn’t had the word “fiction” in there) believes the boys, and wants to help out. “You can help out by staying in school and not smoking pot,” Major Gatlin doesn’t respond but I wish he did.
Here’s what we eventually find out: the glass is not modern glass, not at all. But, there used to be an old glass factory near that site, so it could just be scraps from that. The photos are a hoax. Seems Mr. Brawny just digs kids and wanted to try to help the boys out. But everything else points to the fact that something was out there. In a presentation before the science club (and not, say, the Judge) Gatlin announces that the Air Force is filing this as “unknown”, which for this show is pretty much the equivalent of having three Chewbaccas and six ETs show up and fly in circles around Gatlin’s head while Fitz checks them out with the penetrometer. It’s a triumph for the kids, who, I believe, are the future.
However, as the show closes down, we realize that another group of citizens is still getting the shaft from society. Two dudes who’ve been following the proceedings but saying nothing this whole time watch the Blue Book guys drive off and then assert that they were right not to say anything. Turns out they are — and this isn’t me, there’s really no better way to put this — hobos.
Seriously, even without bindles or roasting an old shoe over that campfire, they are clearly hobos. And they were camping out in the woods that night. They saw the UFO too, and saw Eric and John see it. (There’s even a scene, no lie, where, after the UFO leaves, one offers the other a bottle of hooch, the other declines, and the first tosses the bottle away. I’m betting the original script had them looking at the UFO and it briefly turning into a smoked ham.) They could totally corroborate the boys’ story, but as they point out, who’s going to believe a couple of rail-riding bums?
So you see, you think you’re getting a story about how nobody respects kids these days but it turns out to be exposing the plight of the hobo in late-70s America.