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'In Search Of'  review: Pallid, passionless reboot sorely misses Leonard Nimoy

Zachary Quinto examines unexplained phenomena in History's "In

Zachary Quinto examines unexplained phenomena in History's "In Search Of." Credit: HISTORY/An Rong Xu

THE SERIES "In Search Of"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Friday at 10 p.m. on History

WHAT IT'S ABOUT This reboot of the old syndicated series of the same name (1977-82) -- which was hosted by Leonard Nimoy -- will be hosted by Zachary Quinto (who played Nimoy's character, Spock, in the "Star Trek" reboot and sequels) and promises to explore some of those same topics of yore -- Atlantis, alien life, life after death, and maybe even Yeti.  

MY SAY "In Search Of..." was a successful series from the late ’70s that explored a multitude of fringe science staples (UFOs, Loch Ness Monster, the Bermuda Triangle) and fringe history ones (D.B. Cooper). That it never actually found the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa, or laid eyes on the Swamp Thing, or caught so much as a radar ping of the Lost Ark seemed entirely beside the point. What mattered was the guy who was doing the searching.

In 1977, Nimoy wasn't exactly out of work, but the "Star Trek" movie franchise launch was still a couple of years away, and the misbegotten animated "Trek" was a few years in the past. Mostly he hadn't yet become the national treasure he was destined to become. A paycheck was a paycheck and "In Search Of..." at least promised a regular one.

While "In Search Of..." seemed tacky, and hardly made an effort to reverse that impression -- the episode on the Abominable Snowman, for example, featured actors dressed in gorilla suits walking through snow -- Nimoy made all the difference. That deep, resonant Vulcan voice was so authoritative, so reasonable. Surely there could be something to this nonsense we were about to witness...

For the most part, surely not. Nevertheless, this lasted 127 episodes and Nimoy would go on to narrate a couple more like-minded series ("History's Mysteries").

If Nimoy was the secret to this sauce -- and he indisputably was -- why reboot the series? History's "In Search Of" (the title has done away with the original's ellipses) searches for an answer, at least in the opener, by going with that ol' reliable standby, aliens from outer space. Quinto promises "to go in search of the truth, wherever it leads me." But you don't really believe him. You don't really believe he believes himself. Instead, he meets up with a few people who have had encounters, like one who claims an alien implanted a radio transmitter in his toe. The show submits said transmitter to a chemical analysis, which determines that there's nothing extraterrestrial about it at all. "Despite inconclusive results," Quinto gamely observes.

In fact, they were quite conclusive.

He soldiers on. He visits a radio transmitter in West Virginia involved in SETI (Search for Extra-terrestraial intelligence). That seems promising. One of the scientists there says they've found suspicious bursts from a distant galaxy, which even have a name: FRB 121102. Those wonderful Quinto eyebrows arch, as if to say: Aha!

But "aha" not. A Google search would reveal that FRB 121102 is nothing more than a spinning neutron star.

"In Search Of" and Quinto come up empty, and finally reach the same conclusion you likely already have: "There are an infinite number of reasons," he explains, "for someone feeling like they had an experience that could be classified as an extraterrestrial encounter." 

Uh huh. Next.   

BOTTOM LINE This passionless, pallid reboot is missing  the key element that made the first one -- tacky and tawdry as it was -- succeed: Nimoy himself.

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