We can't visit Area 51, but we were able to visit the next best thing: the set of History's Project Blue Book, which premieres on January 8.
The new series stars Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Wire) as Dr. J. Allen Hynek, an astrophysicist appointed Chief Scientific Investigator and charged with explaining mysterious sightings registered by the United States Air Force from the 1950s through the '60s. The show is based on the actual 12,000 cases, 10 percent of which remain unsolved to this day.
Hynek coined the phrase "Unidentified Flying Object" and much of the vocabulary we use today when discussing aliens and UFO-ology. The series explores his home life with his wife, Miriam "Mimi" Hynek (Laura Mennell), and his dealings with Air Force generals, such as his partner Captain Michael Quinn (Mike Malarkey), General James Harding (Neal McDonough), and General Hugh Valentine (Michael Harney).
SYFY WIRE went to Vancouver in April 2017 to get up close on the sets and props of Project Blue Book, and we're finally able to declassify some of the photos and stories that we discovered on set. For full-size pictures, scroll through the gallery at the bottom.
(Oh, we've also partnered up with History to present The Official Project Blue Book podcast that covers each episode after it airs and the real corresponding case explored.)
We begin at the Hynek's single-story household, the heart of the series. The entire Hynek home has been built in the studio, even its front lawn and porch. Upon entering the front door, you'll notice Hynek's lounge chair, where he sits and thinks, and a front window through which he looks out for suspicious people.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek's Home Office
One of the key set pieces is Hynek's home office, which has been filled with books, a typewriter, and other gadgetry of the time. There are notebooks full of observations that offer a glimpse into the mind of the doctor. Get ready to see lots of math worked out on paper here.
Hynek's Work Bench Close Up
Attached to his office is a workbench where Hynek would build or tweak the tools that he used to investigate sightings. You can see how much he had to think and do outside the box to pioneer this kind of investigation. It's easy to get lost in the details.
Mimi and Allen's Bedroom
A crucial part of the series is Hynek's relationship with his wife, Mimi, who quite often gets caught up in her own adventures.
The Hyneks have five children, and their son Joel is a main character in the series. This is a snapshot into Joel's childhood, during which he had a wide range of interests, from cars and sports to robots and sci-fi. Joel served as a consultant on the series, offering insight into his father and their home life.
Joel has been a visual effects artist since 1980. He was nominated for an Oscar as part of the team that created the visuals for Predator (1987) and he later won the award for his work on What Dreams May Come (1998).
Vintage Phone and Address Book
Another shot of Hynek's home office desk, featuring some of the detail in the vintage prop restoration and creation.
Hynek Dinner Table
This is the Hynek dinner table, at which we'll see lots of conversation between Mimi and Allen... and talking around things with Joel in the room. We also get to see the home, designed to reflect the early '50s decor, and what was attainable on the budget of an astrophysicist/professor at Ohio State, which is what Hynek is doing when we first meet him. Hynek started out his career as a civilian scientist during World War II at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
While the food the Hyneks ate isn't a central part of the series, it shows how detail-oriented the set decorators were during production. Every cabinet and drawer was filled with products from the '50s and '60s.
Riding Coach in an Airplane
Hynek and Quinn fly all around the country in the series.
An hour's drive west of Columbus, Ohio is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, which is the second main static set of Project Blue Book. Hynek would have to drive back and forth between the two cities when he was called on a case.
By the way, Project Blue Book was funded under the branch of the United States Air Force.
Hynek's Desk at Wright-Patterson
Though not as cluttered and well-equipped as his home office, Hynek's office at Wright-Patterson was a busy room with three desks and loads of wall space to post clippings about the phenomena going on around the country.
The Wall at Wright-Patterson
Here's the big wall at Wright-Patterson, along with a coffee maker and hard liquor to go down the hatch. There were also no paper cups back then, so someone had to do the dishes!
You might also notice the old electric fans everywhere on the set. Central air conditioning wasn't around just yet, so these fans are everywhere, both here and in Hynek's home.
The Wall - Clippings
A close-up of Hynek's work board shows the news clippings that prompted the investigations.
The Wall - Map
On the other side of the board, you can get a taste of the geographically diverse cases they were tackling.
USAF - Meeting Room
Another one of the fantastic set designs is the meeting room where the U.S. Air Force generals would have their clandestine discussions. It's a circular room that offers dramatic lighting on each of the generals' faces.
Also, each seat is outfitted with an ashtray — plan to see a lot of smoke on the screen!