‘It might sound more like a plot for The X-Files than a case for the real-life detectives of Scotland Yard but secret Special Branch files have revealed the Met regarded Mulder and Scully, not to mention Captain Kirk and his Star Trek crew, as threats to national security…’
Mark Branagan’s story published by the Sunday Express and followed up by the Daily Telegraph is based upon papers I obtained from the Metropolitan Police via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in 2005.
Two undated dossiers, one titled ‘New Religious Movements (UFO NRM’s and the Millennium)‘ were compiled by an unknown author to brief anti-terrorism officers.
The context suggests they were prepared in the aftermath of the Heaven’s Gate suicides and the fiftieth anniversary of UFOlogy in 1997-98.
The two-page memo on UFO NRMs opens by saying ‘the purpose of this note is to draw attention to the risk posed by UFO NRMs in relation to the Millennium…it should be remembered that UFO NRMs are new and draw inspiration from sources one would not normally associate with religious devotion, particularly rock music, television drama and feature films.’
Popular programmes such as The X-Files, Millennium, Dark Skies and Star Trek are listed as drawing together:
‘…the various strands of religion, UFOs, conspiracies and mystic events and put them in an entertaining story line…it is not being suggested that the production companies are intentionally attempting to ferment trouble. However [they] know what psychological buttons to press to excite interest in their products. 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..’
The author said it was easy ‘to dismiss those who adhere to these beliefs as being mentally deranged, and therefore of no consequence.’
But the mass suicide by followers of both Heaven’s Gate ‘…indicates that their views can, and do influence others [and] in essence, it does not matter that we do not believe, what really matters is they do.’
The briefing pointed out that members of the Heaven’s Gate group drew much of their inspiration from science fiction films and movies. Its followers spent their time watching TV programmes such as Star Trek and The X-Files, or reading UFO-related material online.
‘The problem is that growing numbers are not treating this as entertainment, and finding it impossible to divorce fantasy from reality,’ the Special Branch report continued. Police were concerned that although the extreme type of outcome seen in San Diego was an American phenomenon, ‘it is being imported into the UK.’