Project U.F.O.

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Project U.F.O.
Project UFO.jpg
Opening title card, photographed from black-and-white television screen. The show was filmed and broadcast in color.
Also known asProject Blue Book (in some countries)
GenreAnthology
Mystery
Created byJack Webb
Harold Jack Bloom
Directed byDonald L. Gold
Robert Blees
StarringWilliam Jordan
Caskey Swaim
Edward Winter
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes26 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producersGene Levitt
Jack Webb
ProducersRobert Blees
William Coleman
EditorChuck McClelland
Running time60 minutes
Production companiesMark VII Limited
Worldvision Enterprises
DistributorCBS Television Distribution
Release
Original networkNBC
Original releaseFebruary 19, 1978 (1978-02-19) –
July 19, 1979 (1979-07-19)

Project U.F.O. is an American television series which ran on NBC from 1978 to 1979.[1] Running for two seasons of 13 episodes each, the show was based loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book. The show was created by Jack Webb, who pored through Air Force files looking for episode ideas.

The show was a production of Mark VII Limited in association with Worldvision Enterprises, now CBS Television Distribution and was Webb's last weekly series produced before his death. It was also one of the rare times that Webb did not produce a series with Universal Television or Warner Bros. Television; Webb collaborated with Universal for every series he made following his departure from Warner Bros., who had named him the president of its television division in the 1960s.

Synopsis[edit]

The show features two U.S. Air Force investigators with the Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, charged with investigating UFO sightings. The first season starred William Jordan as Maj. Jake Gatlin alongside Caskey Swaim as Staff Sgt. Harry Fitz. Swaim, who had never had any significant acting experience before landing the role, added diversity as a Southerner with a pronounced accent. In season two, Jordan was replaced by Edward Winter as Capt. Ben Ryan. (Unfortunately, Winter's casting after playing the dumb and paranoid Colonel Flagg in M*A*S*H was no help to the series.) Aldine King ("Libby") was another regular. Dr. Joyce Brothers appeared in two episodes.

In the pilot episode, Gatlin informed the newly assigned Fitz that, since it is impossible to prove a negative, their job was to prove that each UFO sighting was real, by researching and disproving possible alternate explanations. Gatlin also told Fitz that he himself had once seen "something I can't explain" while flying as an Air Force pilot, which led to his interest in Blue Book.

In retrospect, Project U.F.O. anticipated many of the themes of The X-Files, which aired 14 years later, but without the latter show's romantic subtext or its anti-government (or, for that matter, its anti-alien) paranoia. As with Blue Book, many of the UFO sightings on Project UFO turned out to have conventional explanations. Some, however, were left unexplained, and suggestive of alien contact. By the second season, the investigators had themselves experienced a UFO sighting.

In an odd reversal of the Scooby-Doo dynamic, the series eventually settled into a pattern in which the investigators would spend most of the hour uncovering some conventional explanation for a UFO sighting, only for the last five minutes to reveal that UFOs (or some similarly unexplained phenomena) were involved after all.

Opening credits[edit]

The season one opening montage showed flying saucer diagrams and schematics, while a minor-key version of "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" played. A voice-over (narrated by Webb) then spoke:

"Ezekiel saw the wheel. This [UFO diagrams] is the wheel he said he saw. These are Unidentified Flying Objects that people say they are seeing now. Are they proof that we are being visited by civilizations from other stars? Or just what are they? The United States Air Force began an investigation of this high strangeness in a search for the truth. What you are about to see is part of that 20-year search."

Notable was the extensive use of miniatures for the UFOs by Brick Price Movie Miniatures (now Wonderworks), usually cobbled together from off-the-shelf model kits.

Broadcast history[edit]

Season Time slot (ET)
1977–78 Sunday at 7:00–8:00 PM (Episode 1)
Sunday at 8:00–9:00 PM (Episodes 2–13)
1978–79 Thursday at 8:00–9:00 PM

Episodes[edit]

Season 1: 1978[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
11"Sighting 4001: The Washington D.C. Incident"Richard QuineHarold Jack BloomFebruary 19, 1978 (1978-02-19)
A woman on a Virginia farm reports a strange object in her yard and a robot-like creature that communicates with her. Also, a U.S. Air Force pilot chases a UFO and dies. Based loosely on both the 1952 Washington DC UFO incident and the Mantell UFO incident.
22"Sighting 4002: The Joshua Flats Incident"Robert M. LeedsHarold Jack BloomFebruary 26, 1978 (1978-02-26)
Prominent citizens of a town report seeing a UFO. Investigators, however, cannot get information from them and turn to an 11-year-old boy.
33"Sighting 4003: The Fremont Incident"Sigmund Neufeld Jr.Lester William Berke,
Donald L. Gold
March 12, 1978 (1978-03-12)
A police officer is ridiculed after claiming to see a strange alien craft and two astronaut-type figures. Based on the real-life Lonnie Zamora incident. Gatlin and Fitz investigate sightings by Robert Lee Armstrong and Henry Marsden. Marsden reports that the air force tried to shoot down a UFO and he has evidence that fell through the roof of his barn.
44"Sighting 4004: The Howard Crossing Incident"Robert M. LeedsLester William Berke,
Donald L. Gold
March 19, 1978 (1978-03-19)
Frederick Carlson witnesses a glowing white ball crash on his ranch. Shortly after he and the rest of his family are brutally attacked by aliens that came from within the ball which turns out to be their space craft. Carlson and his oldest boy try to fight off the creatures only to find out that their weapons don't work against them. Based loosely on the real-life Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter.
55"Sighting 4005: The Medicine Bow Incident"Dennis DonnellySean BaineMarch 26, 1978 (1978-03-26)
A boomerang-shaped craft chases Mid-America Flight 54 piloted by Captain Ed Mason and co-pilot Brad Everett. Based loosely on the real-life Chiles-Whitted UFO encounter. Meanwhile, in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, Gus Shaftner lets it be known that he thinks the U.S. Air Force is covering up his story about being attacked by aliens after being taken aboard a UFO.
66"Sighting 4006: The Nevada Desert Incident"Robert M. LeedsRobert BleesApril 2, 1978 (1978-04-02)
A U.S. Air Force lieutenant risks his career and marriage after he reports seeing four metallic objects and a mother ship.
77"Sighting 4007: The Forest City Incident"Dennis DonnellyDonald L. GoldApril 9, 1978 (1978-04-09)
Duck hunter Stu Hadley claims to have photographed a UFO on his latest hunting trip. High school students Jerry Daniels and Clay Munson claimed to have seen a UFO while parked in the woods with their girlfriends.
88"Sighting 4008: The Desert Springs Incident"Robert M. LeedsDonald L. GoldApril 23, 1978 (1978-04-23)
An enormous UFO pursues an agent and a writer as they ride to a California resort in Desert Springs. Also, an old woman claims she was visited by aliens who offered to take her to the planet Venus.
99"Sighting 4009: The French Incident"Sigmund Neufeld Jr.Donald L. GoldApril 30, 1978 (1978-04-30)
After the son of a Presidential Envoy is kidnapped by a UFO in France, Gatlin and Fitz are sent by the White House to investigate.
1010"Sighting 4010: The Waterford Incident"Dennis DonnellyMichael DonovanMay 7, 1978 (1978-05-07)
Boys at a military school become involved with a strange substance from a UFO and a hunter is attacked by a robot. Joyce Brothers stars as Dr. Paulson. Based very loosely on the Cisco Grove UFO Encounter as reported in 1964.
Note: The robot is a version of the Robby the Robot suit featuring a shorter head with a giant green eye.
1111"Sighting 4011: The Doll House Incident"Robert M. LeedsRobert BleesMay 20, 1978 (1978-05-20)
Strange alien beings offer a strange loaf of bread to Carl Youngstrom in exchange for a jug of water. The aliens want him to eat the lotus-shaped bread but he manages to save some as evidence. Loosely based on Joe Simonton and the Eagle River encounter.
1212"Sighting 4012: The Rock and Hard Place Incident"Dennis DonnellyMichael DonovanMay 27, 1978 (1978-05-27)
Gatlin and Fitz find themselves under investigation after they witness a flying saucer leaving a trail of exploding colors over a restaurant.
1313"Sighting 4013: The St. Hillary Incident"Robert M. LeedsJames E. MoserJune 4, 1978 (1978-06-04)
Two nuns in New Mexico, Sister Lucy Ryker and Sister Anne, report seeing a UFO and a cryptic message about its return. The Archbishop pressures them to change their story.

Season 2: 1978–79[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
141"Sighting 4015: The Underwater Incident"John PattersonRobert Blees,
Alf Harris,
Margaret Armen,
Steve Downing
September 21, 1978 (1978-09-21)
New partners Captain Ben Ryan and Harry Fitz investigate the report of a UFO ramming a charter boat. During their investigation they must try to rescue marine biologist Eve Summers who becomes trapped underwater.
152"Sighting 4017: The Devilish Davidson Lights Incident"John PattersonRobert BleesSeptember 28, 1978 (1978-09-28)
After three college professors report a pair of V-shaped UFOs, the crafts are witnessed again. Based on the Lubbock Lights incident.
163"Sighting 4016: The Pipeline Incident"Robert M. LeedsAndrew BurkeOctober 5, 1978 (1978-10-05)
A cargo plane navigator mysteriously changes his reported UFO story about an encounter in the Yukon. Guest star Randolph Mantooth.
174"Sighting 4018: The Incident on the Cliffs"Robert M. LeedsGreg HeffernanOctober 12, 1978 (1978-10-12)
On the Atlantic coast of Maine, a woman with an emotionally fraught past, manages to film four blue and white UFOs as hard evidence for Project Blue Book. Later, the woman’s daughter witnesses another sequence of UFOs which, it is later revealed, rang serious alarm bells all the way to the Pentagon itself. Guest starring: Trish Stewart.
185"Sighting 4019: The Believe It or Not Incident"John PattersonGeorge F. Slavin,
Donald L. Gold
October 19, 1978 (1978-10-19)
A student says aliens have warned him via lasers and music that the Earth will be taken over unless pollution is cleaned up.
196"Sighting 4022: The Camouflage Incident"Robert M. LeedsRobert C. DennisNovember 2, 1978 (1978-11-02)
Three Californian friends, all respected professional men, who are returning from a fishing trip, have an encounter with a lazily spinning UFO which disconcertingly affects their RV for no apparent reason. Film shot by one of the men, appears to reveal part of the UFO breaking off and falling to Earth. Later, a Citrus farmer stuns Ryan and Fitz with the information that he managed to recover the very same extra-terrestrial segment - and still has it! But the surprising analysis of the mysterious recovered object hints that the UFO’s real purpose may have been a fascination with developments that originate from an all too familiar entity.
207"Sighting 4020: The Island Incident"Robert M. LeedsBen Masselink,
Andrew Burke,
Donald L. Gold
November 30, 1978 (1978-11-30)
On an idyllic, but very remote, island in the Western Pacific, an eminent American physician, together with three islanders, observes a limpet UFO dramatically detach from a larger mothercraft. But, when interviewed by Ryan and Fitz, the three locals flatly deny that they witnessed anything unusual.
218"Sighting 4021: The Superstition Mountain Incident"Lawrence DobkinGeorge F. Slavin,
Larry Alexander
December 7, 1978 (1978-12-07)
Amidst the anticipation of an imminent Solar eclipse, a High School student, and his girlfriend, observe a cylindrical UFO that appears to land inside a disused local South Dakota mine. Subsequently, they discover two geometric metal ingots. Air Force analysis of one of these objects reveals it to be composed of almost impossibly pure magnesium. After Ryan and Fitz ultimately wind-up their investigation, it is revealed that the magnesium ingots may be just the most recent instance of such Extra-terrestrial offerings. Joyce Brothers appears as a materials analyst hired by a TV tabloid journalist.
229"Sighting 4023: The I-Man Incident"Richard ModerBuck HoughtonDecember 28, 1978 (1978-12-28)
During a stormy night along the California coast, an Air Force Interceptor aircraft is launched to identify an unknown radar contact. But, as he nears the airborne object, all contact with the pilot of the Interceptor is lost. Further down the coast, an impressionable girl encounters a UFO which emits a signal that she then mimics as a musical phrase. While investigating, Ryan learns that the signal’s pattern matches one transmitted years earlier as part of a search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.
2310"Sighting 4024: The Scoutmaster Incident"Robert M. LeedsRobert M. Leeds,
George F. Slavin,
Albert Aley
January 4, 1979 (1979-01-04)
A Marine Corps veteran, now a High School teacher in Mississippi, witnesses a UFO during an overnight Scouting trip. Later, he has second thoughts about any publicity arising from the incident – just as a reluctant second witness admits that they observed the very same sequence of events. Aspects of this episode are loosely based on the Sonny DesVergers UFO case from the Florida Everglades.[2]
2411"Sighting 4026: The Atlantic Queen Incident"Robert M. LeedsDonald L. GoldJuly 5, 1979 (1979-07-05)
The Executive Officer of the luxury liner, Atlantic Queen , witnesses two UFOs whilst the ship is enroute to New York City. The veteran captain of the liner, by contrast, is scathing in his scepticism regarding the supposed sightings. Another, ‘famous but faded’ witness claims to have encountered a humanoid occupant of the second UFO. While conducting their investigation, Ryan and Fitz may, themselves, be being skilfully surveilled. Aspects of this episode were inspired by the real-life 1978 UFO sightings in New Jersey.
2512"Sighting 4025: The Whitman Tower Incident"Rich GreerT. S. CookJuly 12, 1979 (1979-07-12)
An L.A. Air Traffic Controller spots a UFO on his scanner. Later, residents of an apartment are startled by the appearance of a UFO outside their window.
2613"Sighting 4014: The Wild Blue Yonder Incident"Rich GreerRobert BleesJuly 19, 1979 (1979-07-19)
A female student, who has ambitions of becoming a commercial airline pilot, is in jeopardy of expulsion from college after encountering a UFO and pursuing it through restricted Colorado airspace. Her boyfriend, however, is keeping pertinent information from her and the school's inquiry board. This episode, told as an extended flashback, relates Captain Ben Ryan’s first ever case at Project Blue Book.

Disclaimer[edit]

Placed at the tail end of the ending credits of a majority of the episodes is this disclaimer, superimposed over the official seal of Department of the Air Force:

"The United States Air Force, after twenty-two years of investigations, concluded that none of the unidentified flying objects reported and evaluated posed a threat to our national security."

Rights issues[edit]

Except for runs on the United Kingdom's Sci-Fi channel and the Australian cable network TV1 in the early 1990s and TVLand in the U.S. (which ran 1 episode as part of its Ultimate TV Fan hour), this series had not been aired since its original network run by August 2010. Mark VII had creative control over the series and originally held the copyright, but the rights to this series were uncertain as of August 2010.[citation needed] In Italy, the first season of the series was shown on syndication in different Italian districts (for example Video Firenze for Tuscany), with Tony Fusaro as the dubbing voice of the narrator in the opening credits. This series was also shown on Indian state run television network Doordarshan (DD) around 1985.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Project U.F.O." Archive.org.
  2. ^ Booth, B. J. "UFO Physical Trace Cases, Florida Scoutmaster, UFO Casebook Files". Ufocasebook.com.

External links[edit]