ALTERNATIVE 3 (1977).
When this 52-minute documentary was first broadcast on British TV, courtesy of Norwich-based Anglia Television, it shocked viewers with audacious claims of a vast government conspiracy involving MIA scientists and covert space missions. Giving it additional credibility, the program was part of a serious educational series entitled SCIENCE REPORT. But at the time, no one knew that the show was originally scheduled for April 1st -- April Fool's Day -- and was delayed until June for technical reasons... Gotcha! In the fine tradition of GHOSTWATCH, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and Orson Welles' radio broadcast of WAR OF THE WORLDS, ALTERNATIVE 3 is pure horseshit posing as fact and playing into the audience's paranoid fears. This 'scientific investigation' was hosted by professorly Tim Brinton (a BBC/ITN announcer, who later became a Member of Parliament) and begins by discussing the mysterious disappearances of several scientists and government employees. When a journalist (Gregory Munroe) finally convinces a nervous informant to go on the record, the next day, the man has gone inexplicably insane! Various stuffy intellectuals are also interviewed, but the most 'startling' testimony comes from ex-Apollo astronaut Bob Grodin (Shane Rimmer, who was also the voice of Scott Tracy on THE THUNDERBIRDS), who suffered a mental breakdown following a lunar mission that accidentally uncovered something screwy on the dark side of the moon. Devised by writer David Ambrose and director Christopher Miles (brother of Sarah, and feature-film director of such literate fare as Genet's THE MAIDS and D.H. Lawrence's THE VIRGIN AND THE GYPSY), they do a decent job of mixing frightened interviewees, descrambled NASA recordings, hidden camera footage, as well as plenty of outlandish "facts" to bait the most gullible viewers. For example, unbeknownst to the world, an unmanned probe landed on Mars way back in 1962, as part of a larger conspiracy involving climate changes, top secret US/Soviet plans and various kooky government "alternatives" in the wake of a population explosion and encroaching ice age. So what's Alternative 3? Off-Earth colonization, of course! Watching ALTERNATIVE 3 nowadays, it's difficult to believe that anyone could've fallen for its too-silly-for-even-THE-X-FILES conceit. Nevertheless, despite its creators' admission that it was totally fake, as well as all of the actors listed in the end credits (plus music by Brian Eno), some poor suckers still refused to believe the truth. A book was even published to coincide with the show's telecast, with the author, Leslie Watkins, perplexed when it was considered non-fiction! As an additional treat, the DVD-r includes a crude-lensed, hour-long lecture at some conference, with a pathetically-misguided speaker who's convinced that this TV-show and its theories are "definitely true." Sadly, it just proves that people will stubbornly believe whatever they want, all facts be damned. Thank goodness, our politicians and 'Red State' residents would never act that way... right?
© 2005 by Steven Puchalski.