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|October 10, 1994
Manuel Mendoza, Knight-Ridder News Service
|Live from a desk in the Nevada desert, the talk-show host interviewed such "distinguished" guests as "esteemed nuclear physicist" Stanton Friedman, the "dean" of UFO researchers, who believes that world governments are engaging in a "cosmic Watergate," and Dr. Steven Greer, an emergency room doctor who claims to have exchanged light signals with flying saucers and seeks a close encounter of the "fifth kind." ''Welcome to the loneliest place I've ever seen, somewhere in the heart of the American West, somewhere north of Las Vegas, Nev.," Larry opined, white shoes kicking up desert sand, jacket slung over his shoulder as if he were on a date with Angie Dickinson (and apparently missing his road map). ''Some say there's more than sand and scrub out here. Some say there are secrets, maybe the biggest secrets ever, right behind those hills." Some say maybe, possibly, the government is testing military equipment somewhere, maybe, possibly, right behind those hills. Some say, possibly, there may even be, potentially, a valley right behind those hills. Right behind those hills is Area 51, a super-secret military base where the Stealth bomber was developed and tested and where the UFOers believe the government is hiding the dirt from extraterrestrial landings. They're amazed when camouflaged soldiers carrying rifles in unmarked white Jeeps chase them away. Did they expect a welcoming committee of little green men? ''The proof is always just out of reach," the host said. Darn! Human obsession with aliens and other supernatural or unexplained phenomena goes back to the ancients, and no letup is in sight (unlike those legions of flying saucers). On Sunday, Fox brought back "Encounters: The Hidden Truth," an investigative magazine show replacing Fortune Hunter, whose ratings were all too down-to-Earth. The first fall installment of the summer tryout series took a look at near-death experiences, explored the worldwide network of "professionals" who research UFO information, talked to astronomers who have identified structures on Mars that appear to be artificially constructed, examined an asteroid that has been "scientifically proven" to contain simple life forms, and investigated accounts of a ghost-mother who was seen "rescuing" her son from death. Decades after "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "The Thing," and years after "E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," angels and UFOs have descended upon TV and the movies again. The "Star Trek" franchise thrives. A new film ("Star Trek: Generations") is due in theaters Nov. 18, and a new television series ("Star Trek: Voyager") is set to kick off the fledgling United/Paramount TV network in January. CBS is airing a new fantasy series, "Touched by an Angel," Fox's "The X-Files" is a cult hit and Paramount has "Sightings" in syndication. TNT plans to repeat the King program, but no dates have been set. On the skeptics' side, none other than the captain of the original "Star Trek," William Shatner, offered an explanation for our interest in UFOs: A culture gone astray wants to believe that a larger force can put it back on the righteous path. Said astronomist Carl Sagan: "It would be much more interesting if we were being visited than if we're not. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." The famed Roswell cover-up of 1947 is the best believers can do. They claim alien bodies were found near the site of a mysterious crash; the government now says what crashed near a military base in New Mexico was a balloon it was using to detect Soviet nuclear testing. Evidently, however, Cold War paranoia is not a good enough explanation for why the truth was hidden. If the government 'fesses up, "researcher" Friedman said, "there goes the election for all the people who have been lying." And maybe, possibly, Genevieve Bujold quit "Star Trek: Voyager" because the aliens told her to. Let's hope her replacement, Kate Mulgrew, doesn't get spooked, too.|
Illustration:PHOTO: Earthlings' obsession with extraterrestrials fuels the
success of shows like "The X-Files" starring David Duchovny as Agent Fox
Copyright (c) 1994 The Wichita Eagle