Alternative 3 on DVD

Thursday, 14 February 2008 17:40

When a fairly new label releases DVD product, the sea of other releases from their more well-known counterparts can often drown out their efforts. This has certainly been the case for Alternative 3 from Soda Pictures.

Released last October, this is a mock-documentary of considerable legend in some circles. However, amongst the general UK audience it has almost been forgotten, despite it having a considerable impact on its viewers with its original (and only UK) screening on ITV, 20 June 1977.

As a 13 year-old with more than a passing interest in SF television, science fact was also something that I also was becoming fascinated by. So, it was no real surprise that I wanted to tune in that fateful night to this investigation into the disappearance from our shores of some key scientific minds – the ‘brain drain’, as the mass media had nicknamed it. Especially as there were also suggestions that the investigation would involve an expose of goings-on at NASA, as well as the true implication of something that, at the time, was also emerging as a hot topic.

Alternative 3 DVD cover

The ‘Greenhouse Effect’. Climate change.

The DVD presents the “documentary” in its entirety, as well as a brand new half-hour discussion of the film and its implications. The participants are writer David Ambrose, director Christopher Miles, and the presenter of this segment of Science Report, former newsreader and then-MP Tim Brinton. This helps put things into context – what was set up as a spoof, a hoax of Panorama-“Spaghetti Harvest”-proportions has, in the 30 years since its production, taken on prophetic relevance. Indeed, this trio at the heart of the production can be seen to be genuinely amazed at how their work has resonated with people – including many respected academics – in a way that suggests their crystal-ball gazing was far more on-the-money than they imagined possible.

In retrospect, the use of actors, an Equity rule at the time for all drama, is the one thing that really dates the show. Had the production team’s original vision been realised, of using genuine scientists and experts, then it would probably still be a completely on-target ruse. The actors try their best, but just cannot get the beat needed to make the allegedly off-the-cuff responses of their characters to have a ringing believability. At the time, 30 years ago, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to pick this up, which is why the 13-year-old me was genuinely terrified after watching the programme. That said, even in 1977, I was intrigued that ex-astronaut Bob Grodin looked and sounded a lot like actor Shane Rimmer!

All that noted, if you can make the leap of faith, what we have here is a genuinely chilling account of a conspiracy of such global proportions that, were it ever to be discovered to be true, would cause panic on a massive scale.

It is not to overstate the significance of Alternative 3 that it is the UK’s equivalent of the Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast. The fact that it has faded from our cultural history amongst the majority of our population is one of the most disturbing aspects of the show’s legacy. The production team suggested in the immediate aftermath of the original broadcast that if this project did nothing else, it should remind people to question everything that the media throws their way. The fact that so little challenging of the ‘party line’ actually happens in the 21st Century should be the most depressing aspect to be highlighted by this DVD release.

Also included on the disc is a well-presented collection of press clippings, zoomed around for you in the presentation, allowing you the time to read all the pre-and-post-broadcast newspaper coverage from 1977, and an entertaining additional half hour in itself. There’s also half a dozen press pack images from the time to savour.

CLICK HERE to Buy Alternative 3 at

At the very least, Alternative 3 is an interesting curiosity that everyone should see at least once. At best, this is landmark television, bizarrely neglected for 30 years in the UK, but apparently still a fan favourite in Japan, and seen in several territories around the globe, in what was an almost ‘simultaneous broadcast’. The plan for NBC to broadcast it as part of this global ‘in-joke’ ran aground when the programme fell foul of the USA media’s standards and practices, with a regulation brought in as a result of the radio transmission of the Welles “War of the Worlds” that panicked America.

The aftermath of Alternative 3 continues to this day – if you Google the term, you’ll find that the conspiracy community is convinced that this film stumbled on more home truths than we could ever possibly imagine.

Or, as the DVD’s subtitle so astutely puts it … “it’s all true, except the lies”.

Pick up a copy for £15.99, or less from



Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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