PROJECT BLUE BOOK – Season 1 Episode 1 – SPOILERS
After an American fighter pilot engages a UFO in the skies over Fargo, North Dakota, the U.S. Air Force hires J. Allen Hynek, a professor of astrophysics at Ohio State University, to debunk UFO reports. (They tell him he is supposed to find out the truth, but it quickly becomes clear that his job is to discredit the reports, no matter the evidence.) It also becomes clear that there are other players involved. Someone attempts to force him off the road as he is driving home from his first UFO investigation, and the culprit flees into an abandoned amusement park. Hynek gets out of his car and follows the unknown fellow in there. (This seems rather a dangerous thing for a university professor to do, but maybe in that era people were less cautious about such things.) Hynek finds what is apparently an interrogation or indoctrination room. He says nothing about this to the Air Force guy he is working with (Captain Michael Quinn, played by Michael Malarkey), whom he has quickly learned to distrust.
Hynek and his family are under surveillance from the moment he takes the job. We see a dark sedan tailing him as he is driven to the airport (possibly the same car that will lure him into the abandoned amusement park). His wife Mimi (Laura Mennell) goes shopping and meets Susie Miller (Ksenia Solo), who seems friendly enough and offers her fashion advice. Later we see Susie surreptitiously taking photos of the Hyneks from outside their home. Mimi’s new friend could be working for some government agency (either foreign or domestic), or she might be a journalist.
The episode opens with a fictionalized account of the Gorman dogfight. Aside from changing Gorman’s name to Fuller, there are some notable omissions and additions. Immediately after Fuller is buzzed by the UFO, this exchange happens:
FULLER: “Controller, this is flight niner-one-five. Is there any other aircraft in the vicinity?”
FARGO TOWER: “Negative, Coop. Nothing but open sky between you and Bismarck.”
In the actual incident, Gorman could clearly see a private plane (a Piper Cub) flying 500 feet below him. (Technically, it wasn’t between Fuller and Bismarck, but one would think the tower guy would have mentioned it anyway.) The pilot of that craft also saw the UFO, as did at least two people on the ground.
In the fictionalized version, Fuller (Matt O’Leary) picks up a radio station from San Diego (his home town) during his close encounter. The song the station is playing is “How High The Moon”. (The radio broadcast is not mentioned in any accounts of the Gorman dogfight, so it may be entirely fictional.)
If it actually happened, there are two 50,000 watt radio stations in San Diego, and it is certainly possible that under the right electromagnetic conditions (which could have been created by the proximity of the UFO) the pilot might have picked up such a station. But he was flying over North Dakota, and were he to receive a random broadcast from afar, it would more probably be coming from St. Louis, so it almost certainly wasn’t random. This was 1948, long before the existence of digital records that could be hacked, so how would the occupant of the UFO know what Fuller’s hometown was? The pilot of the other craft must have been able to read Fuller’s mind in some detail. (Fuller also claimed that the UFO took over control of the P-51 he was flying.)
VALENTINE: “This encounter goes deeper than we think?”
HARDING: “At Least we may have another candidate on our hands”
VALENTINE: “You went up there. You saw Fuller. What’s your gut?”
HARDING: “Initiate him into the program.”
VALENTINE: “Okay. You make the call.”
Fuller is injected with something and taken from the hospital against his will. He is assured by his kidnappers that he “won’t remember a thing when it’s all over”. When they come for him, Fuller is listening to a recording of “How High the Moon“, which is the song he said he heard during the UFO encounter.
Ella Fitzgerald released a version of that song in 1948, but the show uses Les Paul and Mary Ford‘s version, which wasn’t released until 1951.
“Audiences will most likely empathize with Mimi’s challenges this season as she goes through a transformation of coming into her own. They’ll also love the journey she goes through with a new friend called Susie, played by the wonderful Ksenia Solo. They have a complex relationship and share a strong bond. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but their relationship evolves in such a way that there are high stakes involved for both women and the lives they lead. It’s an interesting adventure they go through, but it’s complicated, fun, dangerous and poignant, with its share of mystery and secrets. It really runs the gamut of exploration for an actor. Ksenia and I had a lot of fun.”
PROJECT BLUE BOOK airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on The History Channel. It is also available on Amazon Prime Video, and on iTunes (US & Canada). The first episode grossed 3.1 million total viewers over two telecasts of the premiere episode on 8 January. It was the top scripted series on cable of the 2018-19 TV season across all key demos and total viewers.