296 – Dark Skies: TV Fact And Fiction with Matthew Kresal

After The X-Files set the world on fire in 1993 and helped establish the fairly new FOX Network as a major player in television, other networks tried to jump on the bandwagon with similarly-themed paranormal shows. There was the small-town horror of American Gothic, the supernatural drama of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the government conspiracy angle of The Pretender, and even David Hasselhoff got in on the action with his “paranormal investigation in paradise” show, Baywatch Nights (and Lou Rawls sang the theme song, c’mon!)

But the show that skewed the closest to The X-Files was a program called Dark Skies, set at the dawn of the UFO age and doubling down upon The X-Files’ pattern of taking real-life paranormal inspiration and turning it into fodder for fiction. The slogan for the show was: “History as we know it is a lie.”

By combining the government conspiracy paranoia of The X-Files with 1960s nostalgia, the Roswell alien craze, and the infamous Majestic 12. It mixed real historical figures with a science fiction story of extraterrestrial invasion and it ended way too soon. With a series pilot directed by Poltergeist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Tobe Hooper and the imprimatur of an appearance by Art Bell himself, it seemed like a sure bet, but it was cancelled after one season.

We talk with Matt Kresal about his new book on the series, finally learning what could have been, and also the real-life paranormal inspirations behind the series.

Some of the topics we cover in this discussion are:

  • How creators Brent V. Friedman and Bryce Zabel created the Dark Skies mythology
  • What did Ronald Reagan’s driver know about UFO disclosure
  • The plan for future seasons of the show to cover more real UFO cases in the 70s, 80s, and 90s
  • The government agents that approached the creators to try and “help them get the facts right”
  • How the CIA and Department of Defense was trying to infiltrate Hollywood to shape the alien narrative

We originally recorded this discussion for a special See You On The Other Side livestream and if you’d like to watch us talk (unedited, so umms and ahhhs intact!) then check out this video:

Matthew Kresal is an absolute wealth of knowledge of classic science fiction television and he was a pleasure to talk to, so you know why the produers and creators of Dark Skies were willing to share so much with him. You can pick up a copy of his book right here and we highly recommend it!

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