Remember this

Docu-drama made in 1977,shown on April 1st of that year although taken as True by some! The plot is intriguing however and in some respects very prescient.

Alternative 3 is a television programme, broadcast once only in the United Kingdom in 1977, and later broadcast in Australia and New Zealand, as a fictional hoax, an heir to Orson Welles' radio production of The War of the Worlds. Purporting to be an investigation into the UK's contemporary "brain drain", Alternative 3 uncovered a plan to make the moon and Mars habitable in the event of climate change and a terminal environmental catastrophe on Earth.

The programme was originally meant to be broadcast on April Fools Day, 1977. While its broadcast was delayed until June by industrial action, the credits explicitly date the film to April 1. Alternative 3 ended with credits for the actors involved in the production and featured interviews with a fictitious American astronaut.

In the late 1970s the UK's Anglia Television ran a weekly science series, Science Report. The final episode of the series was allegedly due to have been broadcast on April 1, and as the series was not due to be recommissioned, the production team may have decided to produce a spoof edition for April Fool's Day, which was duly written by Chris Miles and David Ambrose but retained the series' format and presenter. Music was supplied by Brian Eno, a portion of his score being released on the 1978 album Music for Films.

The episode began by detailing the so-called "brain drain:" a number of mysterious disappearances and deaths of physicists, engineers, astronomers, and others in related fields. Among the strange deaths reported was that of one "Professor Ballantine" of Jodrell Bank. Before his death, Ballantine delivers a videotape to an academic friend, but when viewed on an ordinary videotape machine the only result is radio static.

According to the research presented in the episode, it was hypothesized that the missing scientists were involved in a secret American/Soviet plan in outer space, and further suggested that interplanetary space travel had been possible for much longer than was commonly accepted. The episode featured an Apollo astronaut "Bob Grodin" (played by Shane Rimmer) who claims to have stumbled on a mysterious lunar base during his moonwalk.

It was claimed that scientists had determined that the Earth's surface would be unable to support life for much longer, due to pollution leading to catastrophic climate change. Physicist "Dr Carl Gerstein" (played by Richard Marner) claimed to have proposed in 1957 that there were three alternatives to this problem. The first alternative was the drastic reduction of the human population on Earth. The second alternative was the construction vast underground shelters to house government officials and a cross section of the population until the climate had stabilised, a solution reminiscent of the finale of Dr Strangelove. The third alternative, the so-called "Alternative 3," was to populate Mars via a way station on the Moon.

The programme ends with some detective work; acting on information from Grodin, the reporters determine that Ballantine's videotape requires a special decoding device. After locating such a device, the resulting video turns out to depict a landing on the Martian surface â in 1962! As Russian and American voices excitedly celebrate their achievement, something stirs beneath the Martian soil.....

The programme was made with stock film used at the time to make it appear like any other episode of Science Report. In a 1989 interview, actor Richard Marner (Dr Carl Gerstein) said he didn't rehearse his lines to make the delivery appear as natural as possible.

Within minutes of the programme ending, Anglia Television was flooded with telephone calls demanding more information. Callers were told the programme was a hoax. The Times on 21 June reported that "Independent television companies last night received hundreds of protest calls after an Anglia program, Alternative 3, gave alarming facts about changes in the earthâs atmosphere. It was a hoax, originally intended for April 1st." It also pointed out that several of the character in the programme were played by well known actors.

Nick Austin, who was editorial director of Sphere Books when Watkins' adaptation was commissioned and published, writes that the book was the "best chance Iâd ever be likely to get to participate in a hoax of truly Guy Grand proportions â the best thing of its kind since Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast."

Austin writes that he was both delighted and disturbed by the Alternative 3 controversy, and adds that the reasons "a clever hoax, openly admitted to be such by its creators, should continue to exercise the fascination it so obviously does the best part of a generation after its first appearance is beyond my feeble powers of analysis and explanation." [1]

An article by Loy Lawhon reports that "everyone involved with the Alternative 3 documentary admits that it was fiction(.)" [2]

One unsourced account reports that the producers of Alternative 3 "announced that the entire thing had been a joke." [3]

A more detailed explanation of the hoax is featured in a study of conspiracy theory subculture and literature, Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (2003), wherein Michael Barkun devotes a few pages to Alternative 3.

Barkun writes that "Alternative 3 was clearly a hoax â and not only because it was intended for broadcast on April Fools Day. The interviews with supposed scientists, astronauts, and others were far too dramatically polished to have been spontaneous, and in any case, the episode's closing credits named the actors who took the roles of interviewees and correspondents. Though artfully produced, the show's counterfeit documentary style could scarcely have been expected to fool many. As an Anglia TV spokeseman put it, 'We felt viewers would be fairly sophisticated about it.'"

Bakun notes that television and newspapers were "swamped" with inquiries about Alternative 3 and that Anglia Television's sale of the book rights to Leslie Watkins caused the tale to spread far beyond the United Kingdom.

In 1978, Leslie Watkins wrote a science fiction book based on the screenplay for the television episode. Watkins had previously written a few moderately successful "suspense thriller" novels, and his Alternative 3 novelization detailed many of the claims presented in the episode. It was published by Sphere Books Ltd, of Grays's Inn Road, London. In the book, many of the fictional characters were replaced with real people. For example, quotes from the fictional astronaut Bob Grodin were attributed to real life astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Edgar Mitchell.

Jim Keith's Casebook on Alternative 3: Ufo's, Secret Societies and World Control (Illuminet Pr) ISBN 0-9626534-9-7, argues that some elements of the 1977 broadcast were in fact true.

Ken Mitchell's novel, Alternative 3 (HarperCollins) ISBN 0-7322-7703-5 uses the Alternative 3 scenario as a background to a techo thriller

On June 20, 2010, the 33rd anniversary of the original Anglia Television broadcast, an allegedly "unexpurgated" edition of the Alternative 3 text was released as an eBook.

Bakun notes that Alternative 3 and the intermittent availability of Watkins' book "lent itself to conspiracist interpretations," and though Alternative 3 did not mention UFOs or extraterrestrials, many of the plans mentioned in Alternative 3 have been featured in later assorted conspiracy theories. Bakun argues that Alternative 3 was important in that its "role in the growth of conspiracy theory lay in a later permutation" related to UFOs and the UFO conspiracy theory. Milton William Cooper, for one, featured similar tales in some of his writings.

An episode of Dimension X featured a plot very similar to the later Alternative 3: On the 14 July 1950 episode "The Man In the Moon", an employee of the fictional United States "Bureau of Missing Persons" overhears a radio broadcast from a man who claims to be held prisoner on the moon. The employee investigates, and uncovers the kidnapping of many persons, including scientists and engineers, who are then forced to toil on the moon by German overseers, who had colonized the moon in the late 1930s, and who are preparing an invasion and takeover of the earth. In turn, the movie Iron Sky also tells the story of Nazi moon bases and a planned Earth invasion