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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TV Tie-ins: Alternative 3

Alternative 3 by Leslie Watkins. Sphere 0-7221-1127-4, 1978, 239pp.
----, 2nd imp., 1979; 3rd imp., 1980.

Anglia TV (1977; 1 x 52m). Devised by: David Ambrose & Christopher Miles; Executive Producer: John Woolf; Producer: John Rosenberg; Associate Producer: Robert Bell; Director: Christopher Miles; Screenplay: David Ambrose; Starring: Tom Brinton (himself), Gregory Munroe (Colin Benson), Carol Hazell (Katherine White), Shane Rimmer (Bob Grodin), Richard Marner (Dr. Carl Gerstein), David Baxt (Harry). IMDB.
The frighteningly erratic behaviour of the climate over the past few years... Unidentified Flying Object activity at an all-time peak... the continuing pollution and despoliation of planet Earth by overpopulation and industry... the mounting incidence of unexplained disappearances of people in mysterious circumstances... horrendous new killing techniques—including spontaneous combustion—used by government assassins against those who pose a threat to the security of an ultra-secret organization... terrifying advances in mind-control by agencies like the CIA and their use in creating a class of mindless human-robot slaves... astounding revelations of clandestine collaboration in space between the USA and the USSR over a period of decades... bizarre features observed on the Moon and Mars—but for some reason barely mentioned by the media...
__These and many other sinister features unearthed and examined by those investigating the horrific enigma of Alternative 3 are the strands in a web of conspiracy which could only exist in our age of terminal technology. Top journalist Leslie Watkins, making use of the research for the original TV exposé—much of which was not incorporated into the programme itself for various reasons - and of material that has come to light subsequently, has written a book with the grip, pace and compulsion of a thriller. And with the grim bite of terrible truth—a truth which is sure to be denied by those who are themselves terrified that the most explosive secret in human history is about to blow up in their faces...
An imaginative mockumentary which purported to be a shock exposé of a covert multinational space programme colonising Mars with the families of leading scientists and political figures because a secret UN report had determined that a runaway greenhouse effect would soon render the Earth uninhabitable. Although it was broadcast in June, the whole show was an elaborate prank originally intended to be broadcast on April Fool’s day and explicitly dated April 1. Stock footage and cod verité camerawork were neatly combined with Tim Brinton's breathless reporting, although some of the 'interviewees' were just a little too polished to be wholly convincing. ITV stations were flooded with phonecalls in the aftermath of the show and it remains a favourite with a handful of die-hard conspiracy theorists who still comb second hand bookshops for the 'novelisation' which invented even more detail.

Leslie Watkins (1930- ) has since commented that the book "is based on fact, but uses that fact as a launchpad for a high dive into fiction... I initially took the view that the basic premise was so way-out, particularly the way I aimed to present it in the book, that no one would regard it as non-fiction. Immediately after publication, I realised I was wrong. In fact, the amazing mountains of letters from virtually all parts of the world—including vast numbers of high intelligent people in positions of responsibility—convinced me that I had accidentally trespassed into a range of top-secret truths."

Watkins took up the challenge of writing a serious and completely non-fiction sequel, based on the documentary evidence supplied by many of his correspondents. However, the letters were lost in transit when Watkins left London to live in Sydney, Australia, and the book was never written. He has, however, written and lectured about the story behind Alternative 3 and revealed some of the quite bizarre responses he received to the book, including a call from the Earl of Clancarty, Brinsley Le Poer Trench (1911-1995), former editor of Flying Saucer Review and author of a number of books on the same subject, who said he was planning to raise the matter of Alternative 3 in the House of Lords.

Leslie Watkins now lives in New Zealand. A heavily edited version of Alternative 3 can be read here.

Available on DVD here.

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