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Series / Project Blue Book

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The truth is like the sun. The closer you look, the more it blinds.
Project Blue Book is a historical drama series that premiered on History channel in January 2019. The series is based on the real-life Project Blue Book, a series of top secret investigations on UFO's beginning in 1952

The main role of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the underappreciated astrophysics professor recruited by the Air Force, is played by Aidan Gillen, while his counterpart Captain Michael Quinn is played by Michael Malarkey.

Not to be confused with Project UFO, also based on the real-life files.

Project Blue Book contains examples of:

  • The '50s: The series starts in 1952, and the fashion in particular evokes the era splendidly.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: While Hynek is a real person, Quinn, while borrowing some aspects from original head Edward Ruppelt, has been made different to allow for more freedom in character dynamics and layered background.
  • Agent Mulder: Dr. Hynek, though a bit less eccentric. Interestingly, he's not a blind believer, smart enough to identify hoaxes and misidentifications as they come, but by the end of season 1 the evidence has mounted to a point he can't ignore.
  • Agent Scully: Captain Michael Quinn, though he's come to believe something's not right by the end of season 1.
  • Alien Invasion: The CIA's psychics believe one is imminent, and the Air Force plan to use their home-made flying saucers to fake one in order to secure the government's permanent backing.
  • Ambiguous Situation: What the aliens are actually doing on Earth, and what their plans are for the future. The CIA speculate there's an invasion coming, but whether it's true or not is up in the air.
    • David Dubrovsky's appearance in spades. His encounter has the aliens acting far friendlier and less mysterious than normal, and engaging in direct communication, not to mention leaving photographic proof of themselves for once. Years later Hynek dismisses him as a conman - but there's the matter of Hynek and Quinn finding the (very real) alien symbol burned into the ground outside his home, and how the hell he knew about the Robertson Committee in the first place...
  • Area 51: Shows up in the titular episode of season 2, where it's a hotspot of UFO activity and both the CIA and the Air Force's attempts to imitate them.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Seen when Quinn and Hynek have to defuse an angry mob out to get the family they think lied to them about UFOs. An annoyed Quinn simply gets close enough to the leader, kicks his ass, takes his shotgun and proclaims he's in charge now.
  • Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: Hynek's wife Mimi and her new friend Susie. It's a seduction technique by Susie, a Russian spy, and she's later shown to have no problems seducing Quinn too.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Quinn despises Germans in general after his experiences in the war (he was one of the first Americans into Buchenwald), so dealing with Wernher Von Braun's ex-Nazi scientists constantly triggers him into irrational actions that almost get him fired.
    • After the speech mentioned in the Well-Intentioned Extremist entry, Hynek claiming it's all bullshit and Harding's a coward angers him so much he fires Hynek almost on the spot.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The Air Force generals, the Soviets and potentially the aliens themselves. In season 2 the Men in Black and the CIA are added to the mix.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Daniel Banks, the CIA operative the boys meet, seems to be a Reasonable Authority Figure who's on their side, even helping Quinn save Hynek from the Men in Black. Then comes the Robertson Committee, and he does his best to discredit them and their cases under orders from the CIA, so they can take over the alien investigations themselves.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Hynek speculates towards the end of season 2 that the aliens are trying to help the human race by stopping incidents that could start World War 3 - but their actual appearances in the story sometimes confirm this, sometimes go totally against it. Ultimately, their actions make sense to them alone.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: An army platoon claiming to have seen UFOs turn out to be this, having been unwittingly dosed with fear gas to study how they turn on each other.
  • Dirty Communists: Susie and her handler want to know everything about Operation Blue Book on behalf of the Soviet Union. Gradually subverted, as we see Susie has a lot more layers to her than it initially appears.
  • Double Agent: The Air Force turn Rizzuto into one after Quinn and Hynek blow his cover, with Harding using him to see if Quinn stole an alien device. Unfortunately, Quinn unwittingly reveals this to Susie, who kills him to save her own life after her superiors decide she's no longer useful.
  • Femme Fatale Spy: Susie is this, with a bit of Sensual Slav coming into play.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Harding and Valentine may be willing to lie, intimidate witnesses and cover up alien incidents, but they're sincerely furious when they find out one of the Secretary of Defence's pet projects involved testing fear gas on American soldiers.
    • While Hynek has come around to thinking the truth about aliens should come out, he refuses to let it happen because of a lie, and exposes the fake Roswell autopsy video accordingly.
    • When a Honey Trap Air Force effort to uncover who an agent is working for goes awry and he starts threatening their "prostitute" operative, Harding doesn't hesitate to step in and save her - in stark contrast to Valentine, who's only concerned about blowing their cover.
    • Both generals are genuinely distraught over the supposed death of Quinn in the season 2 finale, with Harding even recommending him for the Medal of Honor.
  • Flash Forward: Unusually, "Close Encounters" does this, having an older Hynek and Mimi interviewed on the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, just so they can do a Whole Episode Flashback to the show's normal timeframe.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Hynek invents the term UFO (Unidentified Flying Object). His partner has no objection, because it saves time typing up reports.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: With the subject matter being aliens, surprisingly averted - Project Blue Book really did exist to investigate UFO sightings, and each episode is based on a case they investigated - even if a lot of creative liberties have been taken regarding the actual circumstances.
  • Government Conspiracy: Air Force generals Harding and Valentine, as well as the Secretary of Defence, are shown to be at least partially knowledgeable of alien life, and create Project Blue Book as a smokescreen to reassure the general public. "The Washington Merry-Go Round" makes clear Harding is willing to lie to the President that the latest incident is Russians, despite the risk of this starting World War 3.
  • The Greys: The alien corpse we see in "Operation Paperclip" strongly resembles one. So does the fake one in "The Roswell Incident". And the ambiguous ones in "Close Encounters".
  • Historical Domain Character: As it's based on a real story, it's not surprising many real historical figures show up over the series, including Wernher Von Braun, President Truman and then-Senator John F. Kennedy.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Banks's demolishing their credibility to the Robertson Committee wouldn't be nearly as effective if his charges - staging alien invasions, breaking onto bases, stealing alien technology, inciting mass panic - weren't all things Hynek, Quinn and the Air Force have variously done in the series.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Hynek and Quinn spend a lot of their time annoying local authorities. Beyond that, season 2 has the two investigate Area 51 - under the jurisdiction of the newly-formed CIA, in turn leading to their competing with the Air Force throughout the season to be the only ones sanctioned by the government to investigate aliens. And the season 2 finale has them investigate an underwater UFO sighting on the battleship Wisconsin, coming up against a hard-headed Navy admiral who loathes the Air Force.
  • The Men in Black:
    • There are a group following Hynek, but unlike most examples of this trope their leader seems to be trying to help Hynek. Turns out he's an ex-CIA psychic desperate to make contact under any circumstances, and has amassed like-minded followers willing to kill those who'd suppress the truth.
    • There's also a bunch working for Von Braun that dress like this.
  • Mystery of the Week: Each episode takes from a different, real-life Blue Book file.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In "The Roswell Incident" Hynek fakes being excessively drunk, deliberately provoking General Harding so he can take his leave of the situation to investigate what's actually going on. Works a little too well in that Harding ends up firing him, and only his successfully stopping Harding's actions being exposed on live TV save him.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Quinn can take all manner of craziness in stride, but freaks out when he finds Hynek went over Harding and Valentine's heads to obtain equipment for their latest case.
    • Harding when he realises he's been tricked into playing a film seemingly showing the existence of alien life on nationwide TV.
    • Hynek when his ally Banks starts destroying their credibility to the Robertson Committee so the CIA can take over alien investigations.
  • Red Scare: The show is set in the early Cold War and Atomic Age. Both Valentine and Harding are convinced that at least some of what they're seeing is engineered by the Soviets, including the Roswell Incident. There are actual Reds to worry about though - the series shows a network of Soviet operatives at various points, including Susie, while "Broken Arrow" revolves around a crashed Soviet aircraft and its missing nuclear bomb.
  • Roswell That Ends Well: Perhaps not surprisingly, Hynek and Quinn end up there at the start of season 2 to investigate an alien autopsy video that ultimately turns out to be fake.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A meeting of army brass are shown watching an upcoming Hollywood movie - The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
    • When Hynek and Quinn find the alien body in "Operation Paperclip", their conversation about Hynek needing Quinn in the foreground to establish scale is taken word-for-word from Brody and Hooper's conversation about such in Jaws.
  • Skin Walker: Explored in season 2's "Curse of the Skinwalker", but turns out to be a pretty vivid hallucination brought on by tectonic gas. Except in true The X-Files fashion, the final scene shows it might not be....
  • Subliminal Messaging: What the pilot from the first episode claims occurred, that the song played was an attempt to communicate with him, with something deeper in the melody. Judging by his incinerating himself when he sees Hynek's alien symbol, he's likely right.
  • Take a Third Option: Said almost word-for-word in "Close Encounters" when, faced with a choice between letting the Robertson panel paint them as incompetents and telling the truth and bringing down the Air Force's wrath on them, Hynek brings in Daniel Banks, the CIA operative they've been working with, to provide character testimony on their good work. Unlike most examples of this trope, backfires massively when Banks buries them to the committee under orders from the CIA - so they end up taking a fourth option; letting David Dubrovsky give his testimony and then pointing out that aliens or no, Blue Book is needed so cranks like him can't panic the American people. It works.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • Quinn and Hynek frequently don't get on - Hynek's dedicated to uncovering the truth, while Quinn simply wants to close cases and keep his job. Things deteriorate towards the end of the season following Hynek's theft of an alien device from an Air Force base, to the point of fisticuffs in "Abduction". They patch things up after it becomes apparent that something really is going on in the finale.
    • Harding, Valentine and Banks come together to figure out who Garner is working for, as despite their many clashes, none of them want the details of UFOs being put into the public domain.
    • Hynek ends up working with the Men in Black at the end of season 2 despite his mistrust of them to find the disappeared Captain Quinn.
  • Token Good Teammate: Project Blue Book is this to the Air Force pretty much by default given all the shady stuff Harding and Valentine turn out to have an hand in.
  • Those Wacky Nazis:
    • Ex-Nazis in this case. "Operation Paperclip" prominently features Wernher von Braun, the former Nazi scientist responsible for the V2 rocket and later instrumental to the Apollo program - and here he's responsible for building the Air Force a UFO copy.
    • We find out in "The Roswell Incident" that Valentine has convinced Harding that the aliens were actually children surgically altered by notorious Nazi scientist Josef Mengele, and that the whole thing was concocted by the Russians. Notably, the following episode shows Harding beginning to believe the possibility it is actually aliens after all.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Harding bribes and intimidates witnesses, actively waterboards someone himself at one point and lies directly to the President that Russians were responsible for a mass sighting over Washington, despite the fact it could trigger a war. Yet he claims his work is crucial to protecting every man, woman and child on the planet, and at another point draws an indirect comparison between the bombing of Hiroshima and what he's doing, claiming both prevented the world from sliding into chaos.
    Harding: It requires a special kind of man to do that. The kind of man who knows where the line is drawn that separates the unthinkable from the necessary. The kind of man who has a job to do, and gets it done.
  • Wham Shot:
    • The final scene of season 1 has Hynek's mysterious Man in Black contact discovering an alien obelisk resembling the Washington monument in the Antarctic.
    • Hynek sketching out the underwater UFO sightings around the globe on his map. The camera pulls back and it's identical to the alien symbol.