What is Encounters about? Netflix UFO series explained

Still from Encounters on NetflixNetflix

The truth is out there… and it’s also in the new Netflix documentary series Encounters, which explores stories of supposed alien contact. Here’s what it’s about, who’s in it, and if it’s worth watching. 

Last week, No One Will Save You arrived on Hulu, a new horror movie by Brian Duffield telling the story of Brynn Adams (Kaitlyn Dever), whose once-quiet life is disrupted by otherworldly visitors. 

Though it’s received a divisive reaction from viewers at home, thousands of people have been tuning in nonetheless, showing a thirst for new spins on the alien narrative, which has been the subject of fictional films and shows for decades.

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But what about those who come across UFOs in real life? Often these are discarded to the realms of conspiracy theories, but as new congressional hearings and personal encounters come to light, Netflix’s new docu-series poses the question: are we really alone?

What is Encounters about?

Encounters is a four-part documentary series deep diving into four stories of unexplained otherworldly phenomena, spanning from mysterious sightings in Texas to an alien interference with a Japanese nuclear power plant. Cut between these extraordinary stories are revelations from military whistleblowers and investigative experts. 

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Check out the trailer below:

As per the official synopsis: “Explosive new revelations from military whistleblowers of alien encounters, UFOs, and clandestine Pentagon programs, as well as coverage from major news sources, have breathed a fresh urgency into a topic that, for decades, we’ve relegated to the realm of conspiracy.

“Encounters, directed by Yon Motskin (Generation Hustle) and executive produced by Amblin Television, Emmy-winning Boardwalk Pictures, and Vice Studios, is a landmark four-part series that travels the globe to explore four extraordinary true stories of encounters with otherworldly phenomena. 

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“Each cinematic and deeply-researched episode tells a single story: strange lights in the sky over small-town Texas; submersible space crafts haunting a coastal Welsh village; an alien encounter with schoolchildren in Zimbabwe; non-human intelligence reportedly interfering with a nuclear power plant in Japan.

“As told from the perspective of firsthand experiencers – in the places where the sightings occurred – and guided by cutting-edge scientists and military personnel, the series goes beyond the science to highlight the profoundly human impact of these encounters on lives, families, and communities. 

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“A timely and timeless cosmic detective story, what will be revealed from this puzzle of seemingly unrelated encounters across different places, times, and cultures is a set of uncanny similarities, and one astonishing truth: extraterrestrial encounters are global, awe-inspiring, and unlike anything we’ve ever imagined.”

Encounters episode titles and descriptions

As for each individual episode, the titles are in chronological order: The Broad Haven Triangle; Believers; Messengers; and Lights Over Fukushima. You can find the descriptions below. 

Episode 1 is set in 1977, when “the Cold War was raging, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was in theaters, and a group of boys spotted a cigar-shaped spacecraft rising from the trees beyond their playground. Suddenly, the area surrounding the Welsh coastal town of Broad Haven was gripped by over 450 reports of UFO and alien encounters – the largest mass sighting in UK history.”

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Episode 2, Believers, is set in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, in 1994, when “62 young students at Ariel School saw spaceships and strange humanoid figures in their playground.” Considered by many to be the most significant encounter of the 20th century, the incident “profoundly changed the lives of the children, the headmistress, and even the preeminent Harvard psychiatrist who came to investigate what they’d seen.”

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Still from Encounters on NetflixNetflix

Episode 3, Messengers, takes us to early 2008, when “residents in and around the small central Texas town of Stephenville experienced something unexplainable: UFO sightings, reported by hundreds of people, including local business leaders and law enforcement.”

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Finally, Episode 4 brings viewers to the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan circa 2011. A monk “walked out onto the temple’s plaza, and saw what he describes as an undeniable UFO – and then the earthquake came. That 2011 quake sparked a massive tsunami that set off the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, during which many residents saw mysterious balls of light over the reactors in the wake of their meltdown.”

Who features in Encounters?

The experts and firsthand experiencers who feature in Netflix’s Encounters include: 

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  • Dr. Kevin Knuth, astrophysicist and former NASA research scientist
  • David Clarke, investigative journalist and educator
  • Ralph Blumenthal, reporter for The New York Times and The Believer author
  • Tony Cowan, former RAF officer
  • Eric MacLeish, attorney
  • Matthew Roberts, naval intelligence cryptologist
  • Sara Vanden Berge, former managing editor for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune
  • Lee Roy Gaitan, a constable in Erath County, Texas
  • Robert Powell, nanotechnology engineer and co-founder of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies
  • Dave Davis, former student in Broad Haven
  • Shaun Garrison, former student in Broad Haven
  • Mark Morston, former student in Broad Haven
  • Francine Granville, the daughter of Broad Haven hotel owner Rose Granville
  • Emma Kristiansen, former student of Ariel Primary School
  • Tapfu, former student of Ariel Primary School
  • Kudzanai Munya, former student of Ariel Primary School
  • Lisil, former student of Ariel Primary School
  • Steve, owner of a trucking company
  • Pat Leatherwood, a bank chairman
  • Keisuke Udagawa, newspaper editor
  • Tomonori Izumi, the 29th chief monk of Enmyoin Temple
  • Jiyo Sakuma, visual artist
  • Dr Jensine Andresen, scholar and author
  • Miho Ninagawar, drama teacher

Still from Encounters on NetflixNetflix

Speaking about the casting for Encounters, director Yon Motskin said: “We took a lot of great care with the casting, and that was an important filter for us: Do we believe these people? Do they have an emotional arc, beyond ‘I saw this strange thing’? Are they credible? Can they be corroborated? Do they have ulterior motivations? 

“Whether something really happened or not, that’s not for us to say. And sometimes, their credibility comes from their station in life. Bank president, high school math teacher, successful local businessmen, school principal in Wales, the headmistress in Zimbabwe – they are credible and reliable storytellers.”

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Is Encounters worth watching?

Although it’s too early for a Rotten Tomatoes score, Encounters on Netflix has received positive and middling reviews. 

Of the more favorable reviews, Ready Steady Cut gave the series 3.5 out of 5 stars, writing: “It’s hard to deny these multiple experiences when they’re encountered by so many people from different walks of life. This documentary does well to keep a balance where it is not specifically suggesting alien life is real, but it is also not denying it.”

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Elsewhere, Chicago Sun-Times gave it 2 out of 4 stars. “Even though this sincere and intermittently interesting docuseries bears the imprint of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television (teaming with Boardwalk Pictures and Vice Studios), there are times when Spielberg’s alien-visitation classics Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. feel at least as plausible as some of the claims made by the eyewitnesses and true believers showcased in the series,” it said. 

Finally, Midgard Times gave Encounters 6.5 out of 10 stars, stating: “What made Encounters a little boring was the overstretched conversation about the same thing from different people.” But it said that “the Netflix documentary series is an exemplary example of filmmakers covering the topic of a subject less spoken about. This title will be a good match for the audience interested in the same topic.”

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Encounters is available to stream on Netflix now, and you can check out our other Netflix hubs in the links below: 

Will there be Firefly Lane Season 3? | Beef Season 2 | Monster Season 2 | Will there be Ginny and Georgia Season 3? | All the Light We Cannot See | Stranger Things Season 5 | Chicken Run 2 | Florida Man Season 2 | Obsession Season 2 | The Sandman Season 2 | The Lincoln Lawyer Season 3 | Heartstopper Season 3 | Virgin River Season 6

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