Spike TV’s “Alternate History”

On August 24, Spike aired a special called “Alternate History”, which can be viewed here. It looked like it is supposed to be the start of a half hour series, but no other episodes have been confirmed. The special’s premise is seeing what would happen if the Nazis won World War II. To be expected from an attempt by Spike TV to show a historical program, “Alternate History” is horribly inaccurate, and I’ll explain why. First off, the special picks one of the most overused scenarios in the alternate history genre. Having the Nazis win WWII is right up there with the Confederacy winning the Civil War in how cliche it is. However, this isn’t really unexpected since it was presumably the first in a series, and when you’re marketing to Spike TV’s audience, it’s best to start out with the more obvious scenarios.

The way the show has the Nazis win is that in the alternate history, the Nazis perfect jet aircraft and use it to defeat the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Then in 1945, German submarines appear off the east coast of the US and nuke New York City and Boston with V-2 rockets. Afterward, the United States surrenders and becomes a Nazi puppet. The entire string of events is ludicrous, but I will give it some credit. The show does mention that the Nazis were working on jet aircraft, submarine-launched missiles, and had a nuclear program in 1941. If they had devoted more research into these areas, there is a possibility that the programs could have born fruit.

But that’s pretty much where the accurate and logical part ends. If the Nazis had successfully developed and mass produced the ME-262 jet fighter in 1941, why did they wait until D-Day to first use it instead of using it in the Battle of Britain or against the Russians? Oh, right, the show neglects to mention the British or Soviets at all. It immediately jumps from the Nazis defeating the American forces at D-Day (while completely ignoring the other countries involved in the landings and that by then the Soviets were steadily pushing back the Germans) to the nuking of New York City and Boston. What happened to Britain during all this? Speaking of Britain, the use of V-2s as nuclear missiles is another complete failure of the show in depicting realistic alternate history. The V-2 rockets were notoriously bad at hitting their targets. How do the Nazis nuke Manhattan and Boston with rockets that in real history, were lucky if they hit the intended target of London!

Shortly after the nuking of New York and Boston, the show has the United States unconditionally surrendering. From there, the show goes into a surge of American patriotism and exceptionalism. The marine corps 1st sergeant they brought in declares that many people would certainly form large well armed resistance groups against the Nazi regime. After that, we flash forward to seventy years later where the Nazis still rule the country (despite the resistance groups?) and the United States has turned into a full blown Nazi parody country. Undesirable people are sent to labor camps which are apparently now the only source of work in the economy now, given what the show says. Also, Jewish people and other undesirables who try to escape to Mexico are shot on sight by the border patrol (shown in the opening sequence). However, using the internet and social networking, Americans overthrow their Nazi oppressors. The marine corps sergeant is the biggest offender here, saying that obviously Americans would win and that “any invading force would have to just say they’re sorry and promise never to come back again.” And still nowhere in the show do they mention what happened to the British, Russians, Japanese, Canadians, or anybody else who was involved in World War II or would be affected by a Nazi victory (that is, everybody).

While the show is extremely unrealistic, I must say I did enjoy parts of it. If you don’t actually take the show as a serious exercise (and it’s Spike TV, so you really shouldn’t), some of the more tongue in cheek changes are amusing. For instance, they have the cliche modifications of landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty giving a Nazi salute and putting Hitler’s face on Mount Rushmore. I laughed at the change of Google to Goebbel. also, the show does make some good points about how the internet is used to both suppress and spread information and ideas in modern times, showing examples such as the monitoring of the internet in China and how social networks helped to spark the recent revolution in Egypt. But as an alternate history show, the program fails dramatically. I hope that if Spike does make this a series that the next episodes will be better, but given that it’s Spike I doubt it. Still, it can be a fun watch if you’re looking for a more lighthearted take on alternate history.

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