Right when you think you’ve seen everything comes a reality series based on a subculture you never knew existed: space dealers. Here we meet Larry McGlynn, Torie Varkett and Cole Sommers who search for, buy and sell surplus NASA kit. Desirable items in this trade include the pilot’s seat from Gemini XII, an uneaten astronaut meal pack and a bag Buzz Aldrin took to the moon. Naturally every item they find has a story attached, each revealing an episode in the history of space exploration. Plus some of the stuff requires extensive investigation if its prior purpose isn’t obvious; accordingly they sometimes meet the original engineers and designers involved in the space missions. Unusual but compelling viewing. It is axiomatic that war is stressful, and combatants reporting strange visions or encounters are to be somewhat expected. This series deploys declassified documents and military historians to try to explain or debunk some or the weirdest claims, from giant squid attacking submarines to unexplained weaponry. It’s novel, I’ll give them that. Ancient Aliens Thursday, 9.30pm, History Sometimes you see a fact so strange you can’t believe it’s correct. This is the 10th season of Ancient Aliens? In fact, not only is that correct, despite the manifestly thin conceit, but seasons 11 and 12 have already aired in the US. And ironically this series is also about spotting inexplicable anomalies in the ancient historical record and hypothesising explanations. Previous episodes have looked at aircraft-shaped trinkets found as far apart as Egypt and Colombia, tested their aeronautic properties, and speculated about their provenance. In this episode, the show asks whether an alien civilisation inhabited Earth in the distant past. Later episodes ask where rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun gained his inspiration. (Intriguingly, an episode next season asks if Australian Aborigines might have had contact with extraterrestrials in the remote past.) Given it’s almost certainly all nonsense, I fully intended to mock and/or dismiss this show but, as I couldn’t stop watching, it receives a qualified recommendation. Benedict Cumberbatch is an actor courting serious overexposure. When audiences see his face, are they likely to think of the long-running BBC production of Sherlock? As Khan in the rebooted Star Trek franchise? Or his turn in the title role of 2016’s Doctor Strange (Sunday, 8.30pm, Premiere)? The latter is very much an origin story, setting up the former surgeon, now sorcerer, to participate in the forthcoming Marvel films Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. It is nonetheless an enjoyable romp, with London and Hong Kong joining New York in getting smashed this time. Check out Kate Winslet in her Oscar-winning role as Hanna Schmitz in The Reader (Wednesday, 8.30pm, Masterpiece). Also starring Ralph Fiennes and Bruno Ganz, it tells a memorable story of love, war and responsibility. With a great cast including Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves, and a celebrated young Danish director in Nicolas Winding Refn, The Neon Demon (Tonight, 8.30pm, Premiere) looked on paper like a sure thing. The reviews of the Los Angeles-set psychological thriller weren’t uniformly bad; in fact they were highly polarised, which can amount to the same outcome at the box office.
Mads Mikkelsen in Doctor Strange