'In Search Of' episode 2 review: 'Superhumans' sees Zachary Quinto cement himself as an excellent host
After a sub-par pilot, 'Superhumans' is a definite improvement and sees Quinto cement a reputation as a talented host.
At the time 'In Search Of' first aired between 1977 and 1982, it was revolutionary. Devoted to exploring mysterious phenomena, the series was created by Alan Landsburg after the success of his three one-hour TV documentaries, 'In Search of Ancient Astronauts,' 'In Search of Ancient Astronauts,' and 'The Outer Space Connection.' The documentaries were narrated by the legendary Rod Serling, the 'angry young man' of Hollywood known for presenting 'The Twilight Zone' in the 50s and 60s, and he was set to host 'In Search Of' as well, but his untimely death meant that the honor went to Leonard Nimoy.
Nimoy would go on to host the series for six seasons and 144 episodes, overseeing investigations into controversial and paranormal subjects such as UFOs, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness monster, as well as mysterious historical events and personalities such as Anna Anderson/Grand Duchess Anastasia, the Lincoln assassinations, and the Jack the Ripper murders. It helped that his popularity and standing amongst science fiction fans — thanks in no small part due to his portrayal of Spock in the 'Star Trek' universe — won the series a cult following amongst the fandoms as well, making 'In Search Of' quite popular at the time.
A 2002 revival hosted by Mitch Pileggi lasted for all of one month, and now, another 16 years later, A&E has attempted yet another reboot with Zachary Quinto at the helm. Unlike Pileggi, whose appointment seemed ill-advised at the time — he mainly had a bit-part role in 'The X-Files' under his belt — Quinto's selection suggested that executives are looking to recapture the show's hey-days once again. After all, who better to replicate Nimoy's success than the guy who had taken over the actor's role as Spock in the 2009 'Star Trek' reboot? A like-for-like replacement if there ever were any, Quinto's natural charisma and gravitas offered the show a chance to reclaim its lost glory.
At the time of the announcement of the reboot, History had stated that each episode of the new 10-episode season would explore a new subject with a dynamic theme and get the opinions of the witnesses and scholars who have deep personal connections to the phenomena. The hope was that the series would see the success of 'Ancient Aliens,' which had clocked 47 million total viewers over its season on the network, but if the first three episodes are any indication, 'In Search Of' may last just as long as its ignominious 2002 run.
Recap of episode 1 'Aliens':
The reboot kicked off with Quinto exploring the possibility of alien life paying frequent visits to their human counterparts. Documentation of the sightings of UFOs and aliens has been on a steady rise for decades but scientists remain unconvinced with the accounts of those who claim they have been abducted and experimented on by extraterrestrials. A topic that has been explored countless times over the years, Quinto nonetheless takes the same approach to getting to the bottom of the mystery as those before him, talking to three witnesses who claim they've been in contact with aliens. Unsurprisingly, the results are as expected: their claims hold no water.
Quinto's first interviewee is a man who claims he's been abducted multiple times over the years, showing off wounds that he says were the result of them conducting tests on him. A failed polygraph rules out his credibility, with his meeting with a chemist who insisted he was implanted with alien technology in his toe resulting in a dead end as well. That set the theme for the episode and Quinto's attempt at garnering any information out of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) falling flat on its face as well.
While Nimoy had come across in the original as this staunch proponent of science who questioned every claim and accepted little for its face value, Quinto is the polar opposite; not that that's a bad thing. Quinto's perpetually inquisitive persona and childlike excitability combined by his readiness to accept whatever he's told make for a fun watch, but as a consequence ensure you take most of what's told to you with a grain of salt. 'In Search Of' sets itself with the bare minimum expectations, and somehow, even fails to reach that at times.
The first two-odd times on the show where it appears a bombshell revelation is on its way make you genuinely curious, it happens that the curiosity is soon replaced by a skepticism; a skepticism born out of the knowledge there's never going to be that plot twist which will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. The episode is a microcosm of the classic case of the boy who cried wolf.
Review of episode 2 'Superhumans':
'Supermans' teased the possibility of Quinto exploring incredible feats of strength and endurance over the years and featured appearances from a Shaolin monk, an anonymous hero who saved a man from his car's burning wreck by impossibly bending the door frame, and a man who feels no pain. A definite improvement over its sub-par and disappointing pilot, 'Superhumans' sees Quinto engage with these people to find out what makes them different from the rest of humanity.
Instead of setting unrealistic expectations for what 'superhumans' are, 'In Search Of' insists that every person has the capability of performing these so-called impossible acts; i.e. given the right conditions. Quinto takes to following each of his guests as they undergo numerous tests and experiments concocted with the aim of getting to the bottom of the mystery, and pleasantly enough, we get an answer to each one; besides the one whose abilities can be chalked off to a freak of genetics, of course. There's also a surprisingly light-hearted moment when Quinto himself takes to test the limit of his abilities to compare his own potential with those of the guests.
For all its negatives, 'In Search Of' boasts an overwhelming positive in Quinto. The Emmy-nominated star has now proved he can cut the chops not only in carefully tailored roles but also in ones that require improvisation and spontaneity. In both 'Aliens' and 'Superhumans,' he's ensured his guests never feel uncomfortable, always lending an attentive and sympathetic ear to their stories and unfailingly responding with eagerness and gusto. While his style is starkly contrasting to that of his much-adored predecessor, it also ensures there's never a point where one is running to catch up to the narration. As soothing and calming an influence as any, Quinto would have done Nimoy proud.
Preview of episode 3 'Monsters of the Deep':
The third episode will see Quinto move to confront the world's oceans and the monsters that may possibly inhabit its deepest stretches. The episode is set to air on History on Friday, August 4.