Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Destination Truth

Destination Truth is a new series on the Sci-Fi channel that comes on after Ghost Hunters on Wednesdays.

I recommend it for an entertaining hour. The host, Josh Gates, in real-life possessing the perfect combination of degrees in archaeology and drama, is this guy who travels around the world to investigate cryptozoological claims. Of course we believe the network is funding it all, but you can imagine this independently wealthy explorer character out of an 1800's Lost World - type story, with modern technology and with this colonialist confidence that he just might be able to show up and in a few days solve the great mysteries/problems of a region that no one there could solve. But no, he's not that arrogant or disrespectful - this is play.

The premise of the show would be absurd if it took itself too seriously. While he is really traveling and doing quasi-investigations, it all plays like one big parody (almost), and he seemingly is a gracious guest wherever he goes. Destination Truth is an adventure show in which Josh Gates plays himself carrying out the explorer and mystery-solving fantasies of the viewers in a documentary style. And while he's at it, he might as well do some sort of investigating and use a bit of both of his college degrees.

When he decides on a story to investigate, he travels to the locale and interviews witnesses before conducting his 'investigations'. You always get the impression you're only seeing an abbreviated form of the interview - or else he is just a rather poor interviewer. While some reports are credible, some of the reports people give him are totally ridiculous - yet he still listens to what they have to say and checks out their claims. If he gathers any potential evidence, he makes at least a mediocre attempt to have it analyzed by experts. The show typically ends with a summary of the results that leaves open that slightest chance for 'something' unknown to be out there.

His deadpan narrative commentary is at times hilarious. For example, he was investigating claims of a Loch Ness - type creature in a particular lake in South America, and someone (whom Josh notes decorates his house entirely in self-portraits) was telling him a theory that it was created from nuclear experiments that a German Nazi scientist had done on an island in the lake in the 1940's. Josh has these comments about going out to the Island of Dr. Moreau or being in a Stan Lee (think Marvel comics) story. His facial expressions occasionally give him away - a roll of the eyes or a laugh that confirm he isn't believing what he is hearing. But he nevertheless goes out to the island to investigate, and finds out the experiments were real however with no evidence for the creation of a lake monster.

His investigations are one-stop brief high-tech invitations for any monster that wants to be found to show itself, but certainly not likely to find anything. Even if you were looking for something known to exist, it wouldn't likely be found through these methods. For example, "Oh, I heard a noise after there, let's run after it!" just doesn't strike me as being the best technique for actually finding something. That's a good way to get hurt or killed or to alert any animal in the vicinity to get away.

There are further examples that theinvestigations seem rather ill-conceived. They find guides to take them places when the guides really have no idea where they are going, or they go out on a lake they are not supposed to be on in the middle of the night in a rickety boat low on fuel. Or they crawl into an unknown, unstable cave that they can't even see into because it might contain evidence of a giant bird even though its entrance could not conceivably admit such a creature. The results can be amusing to watch, but any hunter knows a real hunt is most often a game of patience, data collection, and quiet observation - it just doesn't play as well for television.

If you're not paying attention, you might take this show seriously for the first few minutes if you happened across it turning the dial. You know, maybe he'll really make the cryptozoological find of the century. Anything's possible!

Ghost Hunters is the same evening and recommended as part of the full night's entertainment. Better (more serious) in terms of more legitimate scientific methodology but a bit biased toward believer's interpretation of results and with light soap-opera drama of the team members' lives in the context of their work added for good measure, once again with the TAPS team on Ghost Hunters, anything's possible.

By the way do all these guys assume just because we can't see infrared neither can anything else? I know for a fact certain animals see different parts of the spectrum we can't - for example, bees seeing UV patterns in flowers. If somethings see IR, all those "zero lux" and "night vision" cameras would be making it bright as day for them.

No comments: