Title: Ancient Astronauts: The Gods from Planet X (2 DVD)
Genre: UFO, Aliens, Conspiracy
Production Company: Reality Films

Remember Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? Maybe I’m dating myself, but when I was a kid that was a big book. And even though it created quite a controversy (to include one instance of admitted fakery), it did forward a pioneering theory that just never went away.

The theory is based on the belief that many of the ancient gods and goddesses represented in world myth are, in fact, high tech visitors from outer space. Moreover, von Däniken furnished what he believed was solid empirical evidence for his, at that time, far out ideas.

Ancient Astronauts: The Gods from Planet X follows suit by backing its speculative theories with recent empirical evidence stemming from NASA and the rest of the international Space Science community.

The DVD covers two main speakers at the 2008 Central Coast Science-UFO Symposium, along with another unspecified conference in 2007. Jason Martell speaks for about 75% of the two DVD set, with the late Tom van Flandern filling in the remaining time.

Both speakers are outstanding, even if you don’t agree with everything they say. And disagreement is no big deal at this symposium, as noted at the outset by the emcee.

I found the symposium’s easygoing atmosphere refreshing. Martell and van Flandern are both well known in the field. Martell leans more toward getting his message out through mainstream TV networks, while van Flandern enjoyed many academic distinctions during his lifetime. So it’s a good combo, to be sure.

Visually the presentations are engaging, sometimes utterly fascinating. For those interested in ancient Sumerian lore and iconography, this is the DVD to get. Even if you’re not convinced by the arguments, the background material, alone, is enough to warrant giving this film serious attention.

As for myself, in the grand scheme of things it probably doesn’t really matter if I agree, disagree or partly agree with the far-ranging theories outlined in Ancient Astronauts. My guess about planet seeding, human origins, ancient technologies and cataclysms is just about as good as anyone else’s.

Having said that, I do have reservations with the film’s likening of the interstellar “heavens” to the idea of “everlasting heaven.” This is an old beef of mine and, I believe, an important one.

Martell makes the valid point that depictions of winged humanoid figures in the ancient world could simply represent the power of flight. That is, the ancients didn’t see birdmen per se. Instead, Martell says they probably superimposed their natural worldview onto observed craft that they just weren’t equipped to understand—i.e. highly sophisticated ETs and UFOs.

Be that as it may, a similar dynamic could be attributed to Martell’s research. He seems to equate all things heavenly to easily recognizable phenomena, such as the observable cosmos. But what about that other mysterious factor, namely, the indwelling of the spirit?

Just because Martell doesn’t appear to have had genuine mystical experiences doesn’t mean that many others haven’t. In fact, the experience of an entirely different realm called heaven – not the observable heavens – is widely written about by mystics. So why is this data largely ignored by both of this DVD’s presenters?

What I do find commendable about this film, however, is its questioning of the arguably narrow interpretations of some scholars when it comes to the meaning of ancient Middle Eastern terms like Anunnaki and Nibiru. Today, we have the updated notions of ETs and Planet X.

Planet X is a hypothetical planet, replete with a long elliptical orbit that periodically wobbles – and possibly collides with – other bodies in our solar system.

Perhaps the greatest contribution to knowledge that Ancient Astronauts makes is its invitation to reconsider the essential mysteries embedded in the development of our solar system, our planet and our species.

From the riddle of the Baghdad Battery to the still contested speed of gravity, this film makes you think. It may, as I believe, fall short when it comes to the true meaning of heaven. But it doesn’t claim to have all the answers. And if Martell and his associates are as open-minded as they seem to be, they might someday come around to appreciating that ancient astronauts and heaven (as a realm beyond, above and also immanent within the cosmos) could happily coexist.

—MC

See a review of the companion volume, Ancient Astronauts: Our Extraterrestrial Legacy (2 DVD set)