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'Project Blue Book' Suggests Maybe Something IS Out There
January 8, 2019  | By David Hinckley

If you think there’s something or someone Out There, that we can’t be the only sentient beings in the universe, you’re on the same page with Dr. J. Allen Hynek.

Dr. Hynek has been gone for three decades. (Deceased, not abducted by aliens.) But his extensive study of unexplained extra-terrestrial phenomena forms the core for Project Blue Book, a ten-part series debuting Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on History.

Project Blue Book is a drama “based on true events,” though there is no specific parsing of exactly what’s true and what is drama. 

It does follow the real-life trajectory of Hynek’s work, which began after World War II when he was recruited by the U.S. Air Force to be its front man in reassuring a potentially nervous public that we Earthlings are safe from alien invaders. 

There had been a wave of UFO sightings, including a famous incident at Roswell, N.M., and while most of these unusual moments turned out to be misunderstandings, Hollywood found the idea fascinating enough to start producing a string of movies about alien invasion. 

They were mostly B movies with terrible dialogue and laughable special effects. But they kept the conversation alive enough so the U.S. government, particularly the military, wanted to issue a definitive “Step away from the spaceship! This is all nonsense!”

As Captain Michael Quinn (Michael Malarkey) explains to Hynek (Aidan Gillen) in Project Blue Book, it’s bad enough that people are worried about the Russians, which could be real. They don’t also need to be worried about something that isn’t.  

Quinn, under the direction of no-nonsense Gen. James Harding (Neal McDonough), hard-sells Hynek, a college professor, into heading a top-secret study code-named Project Blue Book 

The Air Force already knows how the study will come out. It will show there are no UFOs. Hynek sort of, but not completely, gets that. He expects to do an actual detailed study of evidence from alleged UFO incidents and hopes that the result will be groundbreaking work that will immortalize his name alongside those of history’s great astronomers. 

Hynek doesn’t go into the project as a UFO booster. He’s skeptical. But as soon as he meets the first pilot who claims to have had a UFO encounter, he finds bits of evidence that are not easily otherwise explained. 

He also sees Quinn and the Air Force team silence the pilot while doing whatever is necessary to keep his troubling account from ever being made public. This makes him even more curious about what could really be happening. 

While all this is going on, we start to get acquainted with Hynek’s wife Mimi (Laura Mennell). She’s a smart woman and a nice 1950s housewife, and her story seems like a light diversion until she meets Susie Miller (Ksenia Solo), who looks like another light diversion until she starts acting oddly suspicious.

Without getting into spoilers here, the real-life J. Allen Hynek wrote extensively in later years about how he gradually came to believe there were Other Things out there. 

He was a consultant on Steven Spielberg’s spaceship drama Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which took its name from Hynek’s term for unexplained phenomena. 

Hynek worked for the government on three separate contracts, spanning a dozen years, so Project Blue Book has plenty of incidents and unanswered questions to draw on. 

Don’t expect the final scene to show ET following a trail of Reese’s Pieces to J. Allen Hynek’s door. But if the Air Force thought Hynek’s conclusions would ultimately rubber-stamp the reassurance party line, Project Blue Book is mission not accomplished. 

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