'Project Blue Book' could be 'The X-Files' of this generation, provided it doesn't insult its fans' intelligence
There are no green Martians with antennas and oddly oversized eyes walking around in 'Project Blue Book' and that is reason enough to call it the extraterrestrial watch of the year
History channel is on a streak again, dropping some epic truth bombs in the form of its recent show 'Project Blue Book,' and just with its pilot that premiered January 8, the show established it's going to be a serious, no-nonsense ride into the alien genre and the underlying truth about them.
Viewers are in for a treat about the secrets and cover-ups of the titular project undertaken by the US Air Force back in the '50s after a sudden surge in 'alien' and 'UFO' sightings in the Washington DC area. The announcement of the show and its concept was enough to get fans buzzing about how the show might be similar to the '90s Fox thriller 'The X-Files,' and just one episode in, it has been confirmed it could be very much 'The X-Files' of our generation, provided it continues treating its target fans as an intelligent audience, the way it did with the pilot.
Tuesdays at 10/9c on @History, go inside cases inspired by seminal #UFO sightings, all while a larger government conspiracy is at play. Join the investigation on #ProjectBlueBook. pic.twitter.com/xnDSCg2LFK— PROJECT BLUE BOOK (@HistoryBlueBook) January 9, 2019
However, to call it a rip off of 'The X-Files' would be wrong, despite the several similarities between the plot of the two shows, and also in terms of potential for character development arcs. We are introduced to the main character, Dr. J Allen Hynek - a family man, college professor, and an astrophysicist - who devoted his career to all things extraterrestrial.
Charged with the title of being the only civilian involved in the original Project Blue Book and dedicating his life to explaining the unexplainable, Dr. Hynek managed to leave behind a huge legacy after his death in 1986, and it is now up to the new show to showcase his involvement with the project, which lasted 17 years, from 1952 to 1969.
Dr. Hynek wasn't always a believer and had initially embarked on this journey to expose the farce behind aliens and actor Aidan Gillen's rendition of the character on the show does bring back memories from The X-Files' leading man Fox William Mulder (David Duchovny).
Much like Mulder, Hynek - in his quest to bust the sightings - eventually gets roped into a borderline obsession with proving the existence of both aliens, and the US government's interest in covering up whatever truth there might be to the tale. Both the characters consider these sightings and the efforts put in to cover them up so crucial, that they invest their entire life into debunking the issue.
Next, we come across the character of Michael Quinn (Michael Malarkey) who is an amalgamation of all the real-life US Air Force captains involved in investigating the said sightings, and how The X-Files' Danna Scully (Gillian Anderson) was appointed to debunk the works of Mulder. Quinn brings in the element of contrast in 'Project Blue Book.'
The sole reason, it seems, for introducing the character of Quinn was to represent the lack of faith of the government in the concept of aliens, and their general attitude about dealing with the topic, making the pilot quite an interesting watch.
What the new show also offers is a refreshing range of female personalities, each of them debunking the cliched sit-at-home women representation that has been established as a signature of the times. We see Dr. Hynek's wife, Mimi (Laura Mennell) as the good wife from the '50s, who despite her ardent love and support for her husband, refuses to put aside her own needs as a person once her husband refuses to let go of his obsession.
"She isn't the normal wife character you see in a lot of these period shows, where she's maybe the sidekick, a 1950s housewife. I love that she has her own arc, and as much as she loves her husband and her son, I think she feels a little stagnant in her domestic duties of that time period -- like a lot of women would have," Mennell told Entertainment Tonight. "She's missing something, and maybe feels a little bit lonely."
And for those tired of the family drama and the overexposed genre of space and aliens in modern-day TV, there's a questionable, but interesting twist in the form of Susie (Ksenia Solo) who is a Cold War Russian spy. "Susie is the catalyst for so much change in Mimi. Susie is the ideal woman of the 1950s. She's so many things that Mimi isn't. She's confident, she's glamorous... [but] she helps Mimi come into her own and feel stronger and more assertive, despite the chaos around her," Mennell said the character.
This is what contributes to making the character unlike the archetypical Russian spy conspiring against the Americans. As opposed to the authoritative huffing and puffing cliched male portrayal, our spy here is a gorgeous woman who could also be a potential romantic interest for the leading lady. A total win-win!
Strong female characters aside, what 'Project Blue Book' also manages to address is the audience's and general public's interest in the existence of aliens and UFOs, in a very contemporary style. In a manner similar to 'The X-Files', the History show excels in handling the genre of aliens and UFOs, especially with its intelligent execution.
Set in the '50s, it is almost half a century prior to The X-Files' setting; yet it captures the essence of panic and shock the civilians must have undergone at the time, in a fashion quite relatable to people in the 21st century.
In that, we see irrational common folk harping about these sightings and the haughty government, bashing the public's supposed folly at every opportunity. There is no added spicing up of the tale, which makes for a very compact viewing experience.
At a time when films and shows approach the alien genre from an overly sensationalized perspective, 'Project Blue Book' finally seems to have mastered the dark and grave nature of the possibility of aliens making contact with earth. There are no green Martians with antennas and oddly oversized eyes walking around our landscape in 'Project Blue Book' and that in itself is a reason valid enough to label it the extraterrestrial watch of the year.