Project U.F.O. is an American anthology television series which ran on NBC from 1978 to 1979. Running for two seasons of 13 episodes each, the show was based loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book. The show was created by Jack Webb, who pored through Air Force files looking for episode ideas.
Opening title card, photographed from black-and-white television screen. The show was filmed and broadcast in color.
|Also known as||Project Blue Book (in some countries)|
|Created by||Jack Webb|
Harold Jack Bloom
|Directed by||Donald L. Gold|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||26 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Gene Levitt|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Mark VII Limited|
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution|
|Original release||February 19, 1978 –|
July 19, 1979
The show was a production of Mark VII Limited in association with Worldvision Enterprises, now CBS Television Distribution and was Webb's last weekly series produced before his death. It was also one of the rare times that Webb did not produce a series with Universal Television or Warner Bros. Television; Webb partnered with Universal for every series he made following his departure from Warner Bros., who had named him the president of its television division in the 1960s.
The show features two U.S. Air Force investigators with the Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, charged with investigating UFO sightings. The first season starred William Jordan as Maj. Jake Gatlin alongside Caskey Swaim as Staff Sgt. Harry Fitz. Swaim, who had never had any significant acting experience before landing the role, added diversity as a Southerner with a pronounced accent. In season two, Jordan was replaced by Edward Winter as Capt. Ben Ryan. Aldine King ("Libby") was another regular. Dr. Joyce Brothers appeared in two episodes.
In the pilot episode, Gatlin informed the newly assigned Fitz that, since it is impossible to prove a negative, their job was to prove that each UFO sighting was real, by researching and disproving possible alternate explanations. Gatlin also told Fitz that he himself had once seen "something I can't explain" while flying as an Air Force pilot, which led to his interest in Blue Book.
In retrospect, Project U.F.O. anticipated many of the themes of The X-Files, which aired 14 years later, but without the latter show's romantic subtext or its anti-government (or, for that matter, its anti-alien) paranoia. As with Blue Book, many of the UFO sightings on Project UFO turned out to have conventional explanations. Some, however, were left unexplained, and suggestive of alien contact. By the second season, the investigators had themselves experienced a UFO sighting.
In an odd reversal of the Scooby-Doo dynamic, the series eventually settled into a pattern in which the investigators would spend most of the hour uncovering some conventional explanation for a UFO sighting, only for the last five minutes to reveal that UFOs (or some similarly unexplained phenomena) were involved after all.
The season one opening montage showed flying saucer diagrams and schematics, while a minor-key version of "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" played. A voice-over (narrated by Webb) then spoke:
- "Ezekiel saw the wheel. This [UFO diagrams] is the wheel he said he saw. These are Unidentified Flying Objects that people say they are seeing now. Are they proof that we are being visited by civilizations from other stars? Or just what are they? The United States Air Force began an investigation of this high strangeness in a search for the truth. What you are about to see is part of that 20-year search."
Notable was the extensive use of miniatures for the UFOs by Brick Price Movie Miniatures (now Wonderworks), usually cobbled together from off-the-shelf model kits.
|Season||Time slot (ET)|
|1977–78||Sunday at 7:00-8:00 PM (Episode 1)|
Sunday at 8:00-9:00 PM (Episodes 2-13)
|1978–79||Thursday at 8:00-9:00 PM|
Season 1: 1978
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||1||"Sighting 4001: The Washington D.C. Incident"||Richard Quine||Harold Jack Bloom||February 19, 1978|
|A woman on a Virginia farm reports a strange object in her yard and a robot-like creature that communicates with her. Also, a U.S. Air Force pilot chases a UFO and dies. Based loosely on both the 1952 Washington DC UFO incident and the Mantell UFO incident.|
|2||2||"Sighting 4002: The Joshua Flats Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Harold Jack Bloom||February 26, 1978|
|Prominent citizens of a town report seeing a UFO. Investigators, however, cannot get information from them and turn to an 11-year-old boy.|
|3||3||"Sighting 4003: The Fremont Incident"||Sigmund Neufeld Jr.||Lester William Berke,|
Donald L. Gold
|March 12, 1978|
|A police officer is ridiculed after claiming to see a strange alien craft and two astronaut-type figures. Based on the real-life Lonnie Zamora incident. Gatlin and Fitz investigate sightings by Robert Lee Armstrong and Henry Marsden. Marsden reports that the air force tried to shoot down a UFO and he has evidence that fell through the roof of his barn.|
|4||4||"Sighting 4004: The Howard Crossing Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Lester William Berke,|
Donald L. Gold
|March 19, 1978|
|Frederick Carlson witnesses a glowing white ball crash on his ranch. Shortly after he and the rest of his family are brutally attacked by aliens that came from within the ball which turns out to be their space craft. Carlson and his oldest boy try to fight off the creatures only to find out that their weapons don't work against them. Based loosely on the real-life Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter.|
|5||5||"Sighting 4005: The Medicine Bow Incident"||Dennis Donnelly||Sean Baine||March 26, 1978|
|A boomerang-shaped craft chases Mid-America Flight 54 piloted by Captain Ed Mason and co-pilot Brad Everett. Based loosely on the real-life Chiles-Whitted UFO encounter. Meanwhile, in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, Gus Shaftner lets it be known that he thinks the U.S. Air Force is covering up his story about being attacked by aliens after being taken aboard a UFO.|
|6||6||"Sighting 4006: The Nevada Desert Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Robert Blees||April 2, 1978|
|A U.S. Air Force lieutenant risks his career and marriage after he reports seeing four metallic objects and a mother ship.|
|7||7||"Sighting 4007: The Forest City Incident"||Dennis Donnelly||Donald L. Gold||April 9, 1978|
|Duck hunter Stu Hadley claims to have photographed a UFO on his latest hunting trip. High school students Jerry Daniels and Clay Munson claimed to have seen a UFO while parked in the woods with their girlfriends.|
|8||8||"Sighting 4008: The Desert Springs Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Donald L. Gold||April 23, 1978|
|An enormous UFO pursues an agent and a writer as they ride to a California resort in Desert Springs. Also, an old woman claims she was visited by aliens who offered to take her to the planet Venus.|
|9||9||"Sighting 4009: The French Incident"||Sigmund Neufeld Jr.||Donald L. Gold||April 30, 1978|
|After the son of a Presidential Envoy is kidnapped by a UFO in France, Gatlin and Fitz are sent by the White House to investigate.|
|10||10||"Sighting 4010: The Waterford Incident"||Dennis Donnelly||Michael Donovan||May 7, 1978|
Boys at a military school become involved with a strange substance from a UFO and a hunter is attacked by a robot. Joyce Brothers stars as Dr. Paulson. Based very loosely on the Cisco Grove UFO Encounter as reported in 1964.|
Note: The robot is a version of the Robby the Robot suit featuring a shorter head with a giant green eye.
|11||11||"Sighting 4011: The Doll House Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Robert Blees||May 20, 1978|
|Strange alien beings offer a strange loaf of bread to Carl Youngstrom in exchange for a jug of water. The aliens want him to eat the lotus-shaped bread but he manages to save some as evidence. Loosely based on Joe Simonton and the Eagle River encounter.|
|12||12||"Sighting 4012: The Rock and Hard Place Incident"||Dennis Donnelly||Robert Blees||May 27, 1978|
|Gatlin and Fitz find themselves under investigation after they witness a flying saucer leaving a trail of exploding colors over a restaurant.|
|13||13||"Sighting 4013: The St. Hillary Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||James E. Moser||June 4, 1978|
|Two nuns in New Mexico, Sister Lucy Ryker and Sister Anne, report seeing a UFO and a cryptic message about its return. The Archbishop pressures them to change their story.|
Season 2: 1978–79
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|14||1||"Sighting 4015: The Underwater Incident"||John Patterson||Robert Blees,|
|September 21, 1978|
|New partners Captain Ben Ryan and Harry Fitz investigate the report of a UFO ramming a charter boat. During their investigation they must try to rescue marine biologist Eve Summers who becomes trapped underwater.|
|15||2||"Sighting 4017: The Devilish Davidson Lights Incident"||John Patterson||Robert Blees||September 28, 1978|
|After three college professors report a pair of V-shaped UFOs, the crafts are witnessed again. Based on the Lubbock Lights incident.|
|16||3||"Sighting 4016: The Pipeline Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Andrew Burke||October 5, 1978|
|A cargo plane navigator mysteriously changes his reported UFO story about an encounter in the Yukon. Guest star Randolph Mantooth.|
|17||4||"Sighting 4018: The Incident on the Cliffs"||Robert M. Leeds||Greg Heffernan||October 12, 1978|
|A young mentally ill woman films blue and white UFOs as evidence for Project UFO.|
|18||5||"Sighting 4019: The Believe It or Not Incident"||John Patterson||George F. Slavin,|
Donald L. Gold
|October 19, 1978|
|A student says aliens have warned him via lasers and music that the Earth will be taken over unless pollution is cleaned up.|
|19||6||"Sighting 4022: The Camouflage Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Robert C. Dennis||November 2, 1978|
|A businessman films a UFO after it attacks him and two other men but he does not want to part with the evidence. Also, a man claims to have UFO debris in his garage.|
|20||7||"Sighting 4020: The Island Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Ben Masselink,|
Donald L. Gold
|November 30, 1978|
|A doctor and three natives of a South Pacific Island claim to see a small UFO fly out of a mother ship. The natives later change their story denying that they saw anything.|
|21||8||"Sighting 4021: The Superstition Mountain Incident"||Lawrence Dobkin||George F. Slavin,|
|December 7, 1978|
|A young student finds two small artifacts of pure magnesium left in a mine by a UFO. A gypsy warns the boy not to tell anyone. Joyce Brothers guests as Dr. Siginaw.|
|22||9||"Sighting 4023: The I-Man Incident"||Richard Moder||Buck Houghton||December 28, 1978|
|A large UFO hovers over a 10-year-old on a beach who says it played her a message sent from Earth into space 15 years ago.|
|23||10||"Sighting 4024: The Scoutmaster Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Robert M. Leeds,|
George F. Slavin,
|January 4, 1979|
|A Vietnam vet sees a UFO. Scouting with children in the hills, the scoutmaster receives burns from the UFO encounter. Aspects of this episode are loosely based on the Sonny DesVergers U.F.O. case in Florida.|
|24||11||"Sighting 4026: The Atlantic Queen Incident"||Robert M. Leeds||Donald L. Gold||July 5, 1979|
|An officer on board the luxury liner Atlantic Queen sees a UFO while crossing the Atlantic. The captain of the ship accuses him of making it all up to further his career. There is, however, another witness. Aspects of this episode are inspired by the real-life 1978 UFO sightings in New Jersey.|
|25||12||"Sighting 4025: The Whitman Tower Incident"||Rich Greer||T. S. Cook||July 12, 1979|
|An L.A. Air Traffic Controller spots a UFO on his scanner. Later, residents of an apartment are startled by the appearance of a UFO outside their window.|
|26||13||"Sighting 4014: The Wild Blue Yonder Incident"||Rich Greer||Robert Blees||July 19, 1979|
|A student pilot is threatened with expulsion after seeing a UFO and recklessly diving to earth trying to chase it. Her boyfriend, however, is keeping information from her and the school's officials.|
The episodes ended with this disclaimer:
- "The U.S. Air Force stopped investigating UFOs in 1969. After 22 years, they found no evidence of extra-terrestrial landings and no threat to national security."
Except for runs on the United Kingdom's Sci-Fi channel and the Australian cable network TV1 in the early 1990s and TVLand in the U.S. (which ran 1 episode as part of its Ultimate TV Fan hour), this series had not been aired since its original network run by August 2010. Mark VII had creative control over the series and originally held the copyright, but the rights to this series were uncertain as of August 2010. In Italy, the first season of the series was shown on syndication in different Italian districts (for example Video Firenze for Tuscany), with Tony Fusaro as the dubbing voice of the narrator in the opening credits. This series was also shown on Indian state run television network Doordarshan (DD) around 1985.
- "Project U.F.O." Archive.org.
- Booth, B. J. "UFO Physical Trace Cases, Florida Scoutmaster, UFO Casebook Files". Ufocasebook.com.