On Fox's "Alien Autopsy" Show

Ed Uthman, MD

Diplomate, American Board of Pathology

15 Sep 1995

I have just watched a tape of this very interesting show, but I must say that I have to be a little less charitable than the pathologist commentators on the show. I think it is a hoax, for some of the reasons brought up on the show and other reasons of my own.

1. I agree with the cinematographer whose suspicion was raised when the close-up shots were out of focus. Clearly the camera could focus closely, as in the external shots and shots of the excised "organs" on the table, but where you really needed resolution to figure out the anatomy (the in situ shots), the film was conveniently fuzzy.

2. Any pathologist involved in such a case would be obsessed with documenting the findings. He would be systematically demonstrating findings every step of the way, such as showing how the joints worked, whether the eyelids closed, etc. He should be ordering the cameraman all over the place, but instead the cameraman was totally ignored, like he wasn't there at all. The pathologist acted more like an actor in front of a camera than someone who was cooperating in a photographic documentation session.

3. The prosector used scissors like a tailor, not like a pathologist or surgeon. He held the scissors with thumb and forefinger, whereas pathologists and surgeons put the thumb in one scissors hole and the middle or ring finger in the other. The forefinger is used to steady the scissors further up toward the blades.

4. The way the initial cuts in the skin were made a little too Hollywood-like, too gingerly, like operating on a living patient. Autopsy cuts are deeper and faster.

5. I would expect the skin of a species with a jointed endoskeleton to be elastic, so it could move with and glide over moving joints. When cuts were made in the "alien's" skin, the edges of the skin did not retract from the blade.

6. The most implausible thing of all is that the "alien" just had amorphous lumps of tissue in "her" body cavities. I cannot fathom that an alien who had external organs so much like ours could not have some sort of definitive structural organs internally. And again, the prosectors did not make any attempt to arrange the organs for demonstration to the camera.

7. This of course is outside my area of expertise, but the whole production just did not "look right" for a military documentary of the 1940's. I'm sure an expert in lighting, cinematography, etc. could be a bit more specific. Maybe they should have hired the guy who did Woody Allen's Zelig to give the production a little more technical verisimilitude.

8. And the "period pieces," the wall phone and electric wall clock were just a little too glib, IMHO.

9. Oh, yeah. The body was not propped up on a body block (which goes under the back during the examination of the trunk and under the head for removal of the brain). This is a very basic piece of autopsy equipment, and all pathologists use it.

So, I think it was a really fine effort, worthy even of a Cal Tech prank, but not quite good enough to be believable.

Addendum

18 May 2002

These comments have been included in Dave Vetterick's excellent Web collection of commentary about the "Alien Autopsy" at:

<http://www.v-j-enterprises.com/aafilm/apple.html>

The articles assembled there include those who agree with me that the film is a fake, as well as those who think it's real, and a majority who are undecided about its legitimacy.

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