'Blue Book': The Story Behind The Official Investigations Into UFOs Coming To History Channel

Norman Byrd

The History Channel has picked up the 10-part mini-series Blue Book, a drama that follows the investigations of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the U.S. Air Force's chief consultant for Project Blue Book, the official government program that looked into UFO sightings (as a follow-up to the UFO investigation program Operation Sign) and associated phenomena for more than two decades. The series is set in the 1950s and 60s and has as executive producer Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump).

"Blue Book is inspired by the true covert events of an era in American history shrouded in mystery," said A&E president Paul Buccieri in a statement, according to USA Today. "Robert Zemeckis and the creative team have shaped an incredibly compelling narrative, building upon History's unique, growing brand of fact-based scripted programming."

Episodes will focus on Professor Hynek's work with the U.S. Air Force tracking down witnesses to reported UFO sightings and the subsequent investigations of the claims and associated physical evidence (if any). The shows' storylines will be taken from actual UFO case files and blended with speculative theories.

"Rarely have I been associated with a project that is a perfect fusion of historical fact and extraordinary entertainment," Robert Zemeckis said of Blue Book. The famed director is known for weaving historical footage into his films (for example, in Forrest Gump, the protagonist -- portrayed by Tom Hanks -- interacted with President John F. Kennedy and other historical figures).

Zemeckis is also no stranger to science fiction themes. Although Blue Book is technically not science fiction, the historical drama's theorizing about UFOs lends it a science fiction-like atmosphere. He wrote and directed the Back To The Future trilogy, the popular movies that followed a time-traveling teenager, and produced and directed Contact, the hit movie that chronicled man's first contact with aliens, which was based on Carl Sagan's bestseller of the same title.

Blue Book will feature as protagonist J. Allen Hynek (whose role has yet to be cast), a college professor at Northwestern University who was hired on as a consultant for Operation Sign, a U.S. Air Force program that was created in 1947 to investigation UFO sightings. Hynek's expertise in what would become known as Ufology (the study of UFOs) would ensure his continued consultancy when Operation Sign gave way to Project Blue Book in 1962. He would continue as such through 1969, when the government closed down the investigative unit.

The National Archives website notes in chronicling of Project Blue Book that, between 1947 and 1969, a total of 12,618 UFO sightings were reported to the Air Force. Of those, 701 cases remain classified as "unidentified."

From the evaluation report from the University of Colorado (per the National Archives), the final conclusions regarding Project Blue Book were: "(1) no UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security;(2) there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as "unidentified" represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present-day scientific knowledge; and(3) there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as "unidentified" are extraterrestrial vehicles."

According to USA Today, Blue Book will be the History Channel's fourth scripted series since Vikings debuted in 2013. Besides Vikings, History Channel also hosts Six, a drama highlighting U.S. Navy Seal Team Six, and Knightfall, and an upcoming period piece which is set amid the history of the medieval military order Knights Templar.

The History Channel's Blue Book is the second major series that draws from the UFO files of Project Blue Book. Back in 1978 and 1979, NBC Television broadcast Project U.F.O., a Jack Webb (Dragnet) creation that followed two UFO field investigators investigating bizarre sightings.

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