Star Trek, Roswell, and...Lawnmower Man? Why Scotland Yard was afraid of sci-fi.

What do Star Trek, The X-Files, Roswell, Dark Skies and Lawnmower Man have in common, other than all being science fiction yarns? Why, the UK, of course! 

You can thank the Freedom of Information Act for this discovery. After a request was made of Scotland Yard, documents were retrieved that revealed some surprise concerns Scotland Yard had over the potential uprisings of certain TV watchers.

A dossier called "UFO New Religious Movements and the Millennium" was drawn up in what is believed to have been response to the 1997 cult Heaven's Gate, which you may recall resulted in the very real mass suicide of 39 cult members.

For those of you who may have been too young (or not even born yet, Xenu love ya), Heaven's Gate believed that a spaceship was hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet. The cultists believed that the Earth was about to be recycled and cleansed of all life, and that the only means of survival was to shed all aspects of their own humanity, sacrificing themselves in blind faith that their souls would be transported to the alien craft. They also believed they needed to castrate themselves. Yup.

Now, that might all sound ridiculous, but mainstream news outlets really latched onto the Heaven's Gate story at the time, and it became a measure of some concern that, perhaps, other people might follow in their footsteps.

This is where the Yard's dossier comes into play. The concern was that popular science fiction of the day could contribute to exciting conspiracy theorists to take drastic action. From the dossier itself:

Fuel is added to the fire by television dramas and feature films mostly produced in America.

These draw together the various strands of religion, UFOs, conspiracies, and mystic events and put them in an entertaining storyline.

... Obviously this is not sinister in itself, what is of concern is the devotion certain groups and individuals ascribe to the contents of these programmes. 

Now, in fairness, given the historical context and the fact that this hardly reads like a rounding up of the Trekkies, this revelation doesn't actually seem all that bad. If anything, the only criticism is over the shows Scotland Yard fixated on. Sure, X-Files probably drew in its fair number of conspiracy theorists, but Star Trek? Lawnmower Man? Seems like a bit of a stretch.

Then again, there was a tumblr going for a while about how Topanga on Boy Meets World was sending secret Illuminati signals, so maybe Scotland Yard should have broadened its search to cover all genres?

Regardless, a spokesperson from Scotland Yard stated, "We have no knowledge of this" with regard to the dossier. That's probably for the best.

(via io9)

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