Ever since the second National Treasure film came out, there has been speculation that there might really be a Book Of Secrets that is passed down from president to president, perhaps since Washington himself. It is true that each president does traditionally leave a sealed note to his predecessor on the desk in the Oval Office. Still, there is no documentation that a special book exists, but then again there hardly would be, would there?
If you are expecting this special to talk about the existence of such a book, you are in for a disappointment. In fact, the title is quite misleading and obviously intended to take advantage of the film buzz. Instead, this special talks about the kinds of things that might/would be in such a book, if it existed. The show really talks about the office of the presidency and some of the traditions and precautions that are taken for the holder of the office. There’s a lot of talk about the security details made for the office. You get a look at the “football”, which is the briefcase that follows the president everywhere he goes. It contains emergency protocols and the launch codes for our nuclear arsenal. The episode explores secret societies like the Masons and Skull & Bones which have produced a large number of presidents as well as other powerful positions.
Of course, there’s talk about Roswell and Area 51. There is the expected speculation that each president is briefed on the subject. Nothing is really solved here except more speculation. The show doesn’t break any new ground. It’s just not one of the best documentaries to come out of A&E or History. Look for some interesting tidbits, but don’t expect to walk away with any answers when the 90 minutes are over.
The special is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It’s all typical documentary footage here. Obviously the newer stuff looks pretty great, while the older footage shows the age. There are some interview clips that look the best because they were created under controlled conditions with modern equipment.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track delivers narration clearly.
Of course, there are things that only presidents and a very small number of others know. The law and constitution make it pretty clear that no department can deny government information to the president. But understand how complicated our world is. You can’t ask every question, and no one can know everything. Maybe that means the important stuff is written down. The documentary correctly points out how risky such a move would be. For now you’re going to have to remain in that speculative frame of mind, that asks the question: “If there was such a book, it might contain…”