A lighter reboot of the venerable format that undeniably misses the presence of Leonard Nimoy, In Search Of provides an investigation into extraterrestrials in its first episode, “Aliens”.
It seems like lately I’ve been watching a lot of shows in which easy-to-please hosts travel to weird places and witness odd things – most particularly Netflix’s new eight-part docuseries, Dark Tourist. Naturally, then, I was particularly in the mood for History Channel’s new reboot of the mystery-solving franchise In Search Of, in which Zachary Quinto, seemingly destined to erase the late Leonard Nimoy from history, explores the big unanswered questions of humanity with a vaguely creepy intensity.
I was still in some kind of mood after watching the first episode, “Aliens”, but it wasn’t a particularly good one. Which isn’t to say that In Search Of is bad, of course, just that it’s curiously laidback for a show ostensibly about rigorous scientific inquiry. What “Aliens” is mostly about, more so than extraterrestrials, is interviewing and experimenting on people who claim to have been abducted but who almost certainly haven’t.
I wasn’t expecting In Search Of to discover proof of alien life. I generally assume that if non-human existence has evolved beyond the state of, say, bacteria, it would be intelligent enough to know we’re a lost cause and leave us well alone. But I did, perhaps naively, assume In Search Of would be less chilled out that its trials don’t yield the intended results – or, for that matter, any results at all.
Maybe that’s the point. “Aliens”, in no doubt thanks to a limited budget, spends most of its time in West Virginia, speaking with normal people – some of whom are surprisingly intelligent – and the odd expert. But to be an expert in something that’s existence isn’t currently provable strikes me as a particularly dedicated career choice. To be devoted to constant failure requires a lot of belief and enthusiasm, and if the show has an underlying message, which I’m not sure it does, it would probably be that the fun is in the search, not what you discover at the end of it.
Quinto is a good choice for a host. He’s attentive and sometimes, when needed, sympathetic. This version of In Search Of undeniably lacks the inquisitive, convincing presence of Leonard Nimoy, who could generally make anyone believe anything, but along with Ben Silverman and series director Eddie Schmidt, Quinto (who also co-produces) does a good-enough job of putting the interviewees and the audience at ease. This is quite unlike that Joe Rogan show on Syfy, which was often hysterical because, as host, he simply couldn’t refrain from uncomfortably challenging people once he had detected they were full of s**t.
In some ways I prefer that approach. I don’t believe in ghosts or fairies or God or any mumbo-jumbo, and I’m usually suspicious of people who do. But there’s an undeniable charm and appeal to a lighter version of an investigative show like In Search Of, one that proves, at least in “Aliens”, that there is merit to being curious, and to being enthusiastic about the unknown, even if the questions you’re asking don’t get a satisfactory answer. What would we have left to investigate if they did?