I’ve always been somewhat of a conspiracy nut when it comes to history. Oh, it isn’t that I believe every kooky idea that comes down the pike; rather, it’s that the more one reads about ‘what we know’ the more one learns about how little we can actually prove. There are items that we’ve found – there are places that we’ve discovered – as a civilization that just don’t quite fit any convention explanation. Does that mean that we were engineered by aliens who’ve reached some agreement with the U.S. State Department to eventually harvest our brains? No, no, no. It doesn’t. But – as I said – if you knew that an ancient civilization used a form of electricity perhaps 2,000 years before we currently believe it was discovered, why that would change the way you think about our world, wouldn’t it? If you knew that maybe there was a previous ‘industrial revolution’ that’s gone unexplored or unexplained because we might not like what we learned, then wouldn’t that affect how you think about what your teachers told you?
Of course it would. And what better mind than that of noted science AND science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke to explain these things to you, eh? That’s what he did in the course of three separate series – Mysterious World (1980), World of Strange Powers (1985), and Mysterious Universe (1995) – that are just now finally seeing the light of day in a home video format, compliments of Visual Entertainment, Inc.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
When I was a young guy, I read a little bit of the works of Arthur C. Clarke. I was into the whole ‘science fiction’ craze when it really found teeth in the mid-1970’s, and I’ve hung with it practically all of my life (despite some dabbling in the world of vintage crime stories). While outer space has always been an interest, I’ve always been more intrigued by things down here on Earth. For example, we have Stonehenge, but we don’t quite know what it was for. Nor do we know exactly how those early people managed to get those stones to where they are, much less what they did with ‘em once they got ‘em there.
Or have you ever heard about the Antikythera Device? It’s this little machine gizmo – complete with gears and a crank – that was discovered in a sunken wreck somewhere off the coast of an island in the Mediterranean. Being submerged under water, it’s all crusted over with decay, but, in dating the object, scientists have found that it goes back approximately the first century B.C.E. What’s mysterious about that? Well, the device shows the kind of mechanical complexity that, previously, we thought mankind finally achieved in the 14th century … so how can it exist from way back then?
Of course, I could go on. There are the Nazca lines. The atomic blast in Tunguska. Or how about Ogopogo or the Loch Ness Monster? Did you realize that there’s actually filmed footage of something in the waters that we can’t explain? I know most folks tend to dismiss these things as ‘modern day fables,’ but a clear review of the evidence – and, yes, there is evidence – clearly shows that there’s something more there than what meets the eye.
This is the kind of stuff that Arthur C. Clarke committed himself to better understanding later in his life. He was consumed with these mysteries known to man, and, in the scope of these three programs, he went about trying to ascertain the best probable scientific explanation for them. He didn’t dismiss them or raise his nose to them as most in the academic community are quick to do; instead, he fathomed how these things could possibly exist in our present understanding of Earth, science, and the greater cosmos at large; and, though I’m just getting started with these programs, I was so excited by what I saw in his first show (Mysterious World) that I wanted to get a review up now.
VEI’s offered up a fabulous collection for those of you inclined to explore the ‘fringes’ of our existence further. This set includes eight discs with an impressive run-time of over 1,300 minutes. And I can’t think of a better mind to take us into the Unexplained than Mr. Clarke.
ARTHUR C. CLARKE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION is produced as follows: MYSTERIOUS WORLD (1980) was brought to you by Trident Television and Yorkshire Television (YTV); WORLD OF STRANGE POWERS (1985) was brought to you by Yorkshire Television (YTV); and MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE (1995) appears also to have come from Yorkshire Television (YTV), though I’ve been unable to confirm its specifics via research on the web. As for the technical specifications, the program largely looks and sounds very solid; there are clearly some ‘conversion’ issues at play here in formatting the video for today’s televisions (there’s even a disclaimer on the front of MYSTERIOUS WORLD to this effect); but none of it’s all that distracting.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. These televised works of Arthur C. Clarke probably won’t be for everyone, but they’re exactly the kind of stuff I like. His exploration of the greatest mysteries known to man may in some cases be a bit dated, but, for the most part, there’s still very little proven definitively about these subject matters. This is required viewing for those of us who want to know more!
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at VEI (Visual Entertainment Incorporated) provided me with a DVD copy of ARTHUR C. CLARKE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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