The 1990s can be considered to be a period of renaissance of interest in all things paranormal with the debut and popularity of the television series “X-Files” and the rise and nationwide expansion of Art Bell’s “Coast to Coast AM” late night radio show. As many have found since then, those two shows were – and continue to be – hard acts to follow. One TV series that gave it a try was “Dark Skies,” which aired NBC from 1996 to 1997 and was later rerun by the Sci-Fi Channel. With the slogan, “History as we know it is a lie,” “Dark Skies” focused primarily on fictional UFO conspiracy theories about aliens living among humans, the government cover-ups hiding the fact from the public, and the attempts by the aliens to expand their influence. The alleged secret government group Majestic 12 played a prominent role in the short-lived series. While some real people were depicted on the show (Robert F. Kennedy, Jim Morrison, and J. Edgar Hoover to name a few), the plots were fictional.
Or were they?
“He said he was from the Office of Naval Intelligence and he wanted to help us.”
President Ronald Reagan once warned the American public that “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.” Bryce Zabel -- a television producer, director, writer, and occasional actor – had undoubtedly heard this quote, but he probably never thought he would hear it in real life as the showrunner (developer/producer/writer) for “Dark Skies.” A new article in The Daily Star seems to confirm a story that has been hinted at before – the tale of what Zabel claims happened in 1996 at the show’s launch party.
“I didn’t know this guy.”
Zabel claims a person he had never seen before came up to him at the party and introduced himself as “JC.” Trailers and information about the show were already being spread by the network – the premier would introduce Congressional Aide John Loengard, who is investigating Project Blue Book, the real but secret Air Force study of UFOs, when he is contacted and finds himself being contacted by members of the Majestic 12. Is Zabel about to experience a case of his own life imitating his own art?
“They were looking at a disclosure scenario, so ‘How ultimately does this secret become known to the public?’.”
Yes, 25 years ago at a TV show premier party, showrunner Bryce Zabel claims he was confronted by a mysterious man named JC who told him that the government was planning to disclose to the public information about UFOs and extraterrestrials, and JC wanted “Dark Skies” to help by being a realistic precursor that could ‘condition’ the public to be ready to accept these revelations when the government decided to release them. Zabel already knows that upcoming episodes will depict such revelations – one of them has John Loengard testifying to the Warren Commission (The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, established by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy) about Majestic 12’s involvement in the JFK assassination. Apparently, JC wanted fictional accounts such as these to play out as closely as possible to how the real government wants them to happen when the time comes for similar real revelations – again, to condition the public to be less shocked and more receptive to the ideas.
“The President just can’t come out and say, ‘Here’s everything’ all at once’. So they wanted to see more of the truth through fiction.”
For example, JC wanted Zabel to write situations that would – for lack of a better overused word – leak some truths about UFOs and aliens via the fictional scenes in “Dark Skies.” Yes, this premier party encounter was itself starting to sound like an episode of the show – something that was not lost on Brent V. Friedman, Zabel’s co-creator and co-producer.
“I can’t tell you how surreal this was. They wanted to help us come up with some story ideas.”
Friedman, also at the premier party, said JC and his ‘associates’ in the government knew they had not yet filmed the rest of the season or even written the rest of the episodes, so there was the perfect opportunity to intervene and direct the directors in their preferred direction. Friedman sensed that they were looking for nothing too big or too obvious in the script changes.
“JC said to me, ‘It’s a drip system… get the truth out there in small ways.”
JC was obviously aware of how hot the paranormal/UFO interest was among television viewers in the 1990s after the surprise and long-lasting success of “The X-Files,” whose initial run went from September 1993 to May 2002, and spawned a couple of later seasons, movies, books, video games and graphic novels. He gave Friedman and Zabel some advice:
“You have a television show that millions of people are watching right now… if we start lacing it with bits of the truth we’re preparing everybody’.”
Everybody? That is is quite possibly the point where the mysterious JC and his equally mysterious cohorts “from the Office of Naval Intelligence” may have given away that they were not as sharp as they hoped Zabel and Friedman would think them to be. This was obviously the kickoff to the first season of “Dark Skies” but JC did not do his research -- the series was cancelled before the end of that initial season of 18 episodes due to low ratings. According to Zabel and Freidman’s five-year plan, the first season would cover the period from 1961 to 1969, the second from 1970 to 1976, the third from 1977 to 1986, the fourth from 1987 to 1999, and the fifth and final season would cover the final conflict between humans and aliens taking place from 2000 to 2001. Did JC miscalculate the potential popularity of “Dark Skies”? It’s possible – we’ve seen that the government isn’t too good at collecting accurate polling data in other fields. Or did they decide the American public wasn’t ready for trickle-down UFO disclosure or conditioning to accept real truths about extraterrestrials?
In any event, Zabel and Friedman said they never heard from “JC” again.
If he was a real Man in Black, they’d better keep watching their backs.