You may remember In Search Of…, the television documentary series of the late seventies and early eighties that went after such obscure objects of fascination as the Loch Ness Monster, ancient aviators, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and “the coming ice age.” Though the show could venture into truly fantastical territory, each episode remained anchored to rationality, in a sense, by virtue of the voice of Star Trek‘s Leonard Nimoy. But he wasn’t the only luminary of the greater science-fiction sphere presenting a show on unexplained phenomena thirty years ago. Even as In Search Of… ran, The United Kingdom’s ITV broadcast Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World. Bookended with narration from the author of Rendezvous with Rama and 2001, each episode delved into a new manifestation of the unknown. Just above, you’ll find its very first, which introduces the program’s mystery-driven mission (as well as Clarke’s personal system of classifying these mysteries “according to strangeness”) and examines the role of solar eclipses in unexplained phenomena across the world.
Just above, you can find the episode dealing with UFOs. “I think I can claim to be a ‘reluctant expert’ on UFOs,” Clarke explains. “I’ve been interested in the UFO for almost fifty years, long before the phrase ‘flying saucers’ was invented. UFOs are very common. If you’ve never seen one, you’re either unobservant… or you live in a cloudy area.” You can also get his perspective, as well as a variety of others’, on communications from outer space, giant reptiles, suspiciously advanced ancient technology, the missing apeman, the great Siberian explosion, geoglyphs, sea monsters, objects falling from the sky, Stonehenge, and more. Has our era of instant access to and dissemination of information stripped these once-exotic subjects of their appeal? Have we lost something as we’ve gained the ability to verify and debunk at any time with a few keystrokes on our mobile phones? The situation was different in 1980, a time that, fortunately for shows like In Search Of… and Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, coincided with a brief golden era of flamboyant, almost artistic adventurousness in nonfictional television. More or less nonfictional, anyway.