Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 30th, 2009
“I think when I look at the globe the places that I’m most kind of gravitated towards along with places like Southeast Asia is I’m really kind of intrigued by a lot of these small Pacific island nations,” says the host of Destination Truth (DT), talking about season three.
DT’s slow departure from taking side trips to exotic locations, talking to locals for a day about cryptids, appears to have changed into a full and quick retreat.
During the first year of Destination Truth, under the executive production of Neil Mandt for Mandt Bros. Productions, best known for their hard-hitting style on ESPN’s “Jim Rome Is Burning,” the show had potential. Neil actually, for the first season, was out there in the mud and rain with the host, which I thought was a big plus for the series.
Josh Gates, the one-time actor and reality show (“Beg, Borrow, & Deal”) contestant, became the host of Destination Truth during pre-production in 2006.
Johor track cast.
As you may recall, one of the promised first shows for DT in 2007 was on the Johor Bigfoot, which got them lots of publicity when they discovered a footprint in 2006. Then for season two, it was the finds of interestingly, similar footprints, allegedly of a Nepalese Yeti that generated lots of media attention just at the right time, pre-season. Cryptozoology was their theme, supposedly.
Remarkably similar and uncharacteristic Yeti track cast.
Indeed, during that first year, cryptozoology was what the program was largely about, with shows on the Malaysian Bigfoot, the Chilean Chupacabras, the Ropen of New Guinea, and the Wolfman of Argentina. Six episodes of the sixty-minute shows, divided into two topics each, began airing in June 2007.
After mixed reviews, personally I found what I saw encouraging. I wrote in 2007 that it was an “on-target, serious, contemporary, fun, adventurous effort to show ‘living cryptozoology.’”
Josh Gates (of DT) and Amanda Tapping (Samantha Carter) at the Sci Fi Channel 2008 upfront party in New York. Promotional Photo: Mark Wilson/About.com
But little known to the viewing public, all was not happy behind the scenes of DT. What emerged, reportedly after the Mandt Brothers refused to modify their high-production value shooting standards, was that Neil Mandt and his company departed the show after season one. Josh Gates took over as the executive producer.
The show subtly showed this shift in the 2008 season. As it moves into the third season, Gates will be putting more of his stamp on the program.
One of the ways this appears to be presenting itself is through a withdrawal of cryptozoology topics.
Here are the topics being publicly erected as the prominent ones for the upcoming nine episode season that will be DT3: haunted forests, Island of the Dolls, King Tut’s tomb, Ghosts of Chernobyl, the Bermuda Triangle, and an extraterrestrial show in the deserts of Chile.
The subjects weren’t mentioned, but DT will apparently be in “the frontier of Alaska and also in the swamps of Florida.”
Where’s the cryptozoology? Gates notes in a new interview that the show “always do a sort of big story on Big Foot (sic) or one of the sort of Sasquatch stories.”
Furthermore, he did say that they are “going to be doing some stuff in the Amazon.”
“And so we’re going to be continuing our Yeti story we did in Season 2 which was in Nepal by doing a one-hour special in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan which was a great episode and a really beautiful country for us to showcase,” Gates remarked.
But why so few cryptozoology stories?
This week, Troy Rogers in The Deadbolt Interview asks Gates a question that gets to some of the answer: “Are there any other places like that that you haven’t been able to go for political reasons?”
Gates’ replies: “There are a few places. I mean, there is also a certain safety threshold for NBC [the owner of SyFy], right? I mean, there is a certain level of danger that they are not willing to assume the risk of. And so there’s a couple of great cryptozoological stories in Central and Western Africa. And we’ve just never really been able to do it because they’re in countries that are not politically stable enough to film it. And that’s not necessarily even just an NBC issue, it’s an issue for us to. I think that we don’t mind going to places that are a little bit unstable. But I think you have to have a certain degree of safety on the horizon. And there are a few countries where that’s just not the case. There’s some great stuff around the Congo in terms of these stories. But it’s just we’ve never been able to figure out a way to do it safely enough. I’m sure that we will at some point make our way into India because it’s just such a vibrant culture that we’d love to experience. And there’s good stories in places like Sri Lanka and it just sort of depends on how you hit the sort of political current.”
(MonsterQuest got around the political situation in the Congo basin by sending in their Mokele-mbembe expedition to the neighboring Republic of Cameroon, where several of the last few decades of Mokele-mbembe explorations have focused their energies.)
What’s in the future for DT?
Well, Gates gives a big hint: “For me it’s often about locations…I’m really kind of intrigued by a lot of these small Pacific island nations…there are a couple of great stories or many great stories in the Pacific from Polynesian curses to cursed or haunted islands. There are shipwrecks….I certainly would love to figure out a way to maybe we do a season where we take the show on a boat and we go around the Pacific or something. But that’s a part of the world that I really want to kind of dig my hands into.”
Curses? Shipwrecks? Haunted islands?
Come one, Gates must take us all to be fools. The South Pacific’s Polynesian islands are known for a lot of other things too.