In 2016, The X-Files made an unexpected and very welcome return to our screens. With a further TV season already announced, the comeback continues apace with The X-Files: Cold Cases, a new audio adaptation starring the original cast that fills in the gap between the second movie and the new TV episodes. STARBURST went underground to the immersive media launch event in London’s Post Office Museum railway tunnels, a suitably sinister environment to encounter Nick Pope, the world's leading expert on UFOs and formerly the UK Government’s senior investigator into all things unknown…
STARBURST: How did you come to run the British Government’s UFO project?
Nick Pope: I fell into UFO and paranormal research quite by accident. I’d worked for the Ministry of Defence since 1985 and in 1991 I was due to be re-posted because they move you around every few years. They said to me ‘we have a job for you’, I said ‘what’s the job?’ and they said ‘UFOs’. It turned out that the role had existed since the 1950s so I thought: why not? It changed my life.
When you were appointed to the job, did you look into the work already undertaken by Project Blue Book, the official US Government investigation into UFOs?
Project Blue Book had been terminated in 1969 so it was history when I came to the MOD job, but the legacy was still there. The British Government’s UFO investigation was loosely based on Blue Book. Essentially, the mission was the same: research and investigate the UFO phenomenon; find out if there’s a threat to the defence of the realm; find out – if you can – what exactly we are dealing with here? As we used to say in Government: ‘what are the threats and what are the opportunities?’. But having said that, there was surprisingly little international co-operation on this subject.
Did the UK Government change any of its policies or systems as a result of your investigation into UFOs?
I think there was a tightening up of the system. Before I had taken the job, some of my predecessors had just been going through the motions. They’d come in with the mindset that this is all nonsense and had not treated the subject with proper investigative rigour. So I tried to shake things up, particularly when the witnesses were our own people. I’m talking military personnel, pilots, radar operators. We took them seriously and listened to them. I’m not saying that we believed them, but we went in with a completely open mind and neutral point of view. We tried to corroborate these stories through things like radar analysis, photographs and videos and subjected that evidence to exactly the same intelligence analysis that you would with an image of a new secret Russian aircraft.
When corroborating evidence of UFOs, were you able to identify incidences where the same craft appeared to be reported from multiple different sources?
Yes, there were occasions where we had what you would call a ‘wave’ of sightings. I remember one from 1993 where we had sightings all over the United Kingdom and a number of other European countries. It was really interesting: literally, you would get out a map and you would start drawing crosses. Some of those maps that I drew back then are only now being declassified and they certainly make one wonder…
Interesting: 1993 was the year The X-Files started…
Now that raises an interesting question: does something like The X-Files create these UFO reports, as the sceptics say? My answer is no; it means people look more and means if they see something, the popularity of The X-Files makes it more likely they will come forward without fearing the ridicule and the disbelief that they often face.
Do we have a plan in the UK for an alien invasion?
I often get asked that and the answer is no, but we should have an alien invasion war plan. We probably need to adapt some sort of counter-terrorism or counter insurgency plan. I think there is more to be done.
What is your favourite unsolved conspiracy?
There are couple. Firstly, obviously, Roswell is still huge. I’ve just come from there, actually, from an event to mark the 60th anniversary of the famous 1947 incident. Something definitely crashed there, that is not disputed by anyone. The real question is: was it an alien spacecraft or top-secret US military experiment? Truth is, we don’t know and will probably never know. Most, if not all of the primary witnesses are now dead. But my very favourite conspiracy theory is what’s called the False Flag Alien Invasion Theory. This postulates that there are no aliens or UFOs, that the whole phenomenon is manufactured by the US Government who intend to fake an alien invasion, staging it through some combination of Hollywood special effects and people like me, because I’m accused of being a dis-information agent by some people in the UFO community. Having faked this invasion, the US Government will then invoke some sort of version of the Patriot Act but on an unimaginable scale. The Illuminati and the New World Order will then sweep into power, nation states will fall and the bad guys will win!
Interesting, but are we earthmen really organised enough to perpetrate a conspiracy on that scale?
I disbelieve 99% of all conspiracy theories, but as with the UFO phenomenon, where the believers only have to be right once, some conspiracies are true. Now I don’t think the False Flag Alien Invasion Theory is true, but it is my favourite almost because it’s so far out there and because it kind of flips the standard UFO dynamic 180 degrees. Most people say: ‘UFOs are real and the Government knows about it’. This theory says: ‘the Government made it all up for this other purpose’ and that’s why I like it. It’s fun!
Thank you, Nick. Keep watching the skies…
I certainly will do!
The X-Files: Cold Cases is out there on Audible from July 18th