Monday, 8 May 2017
First viewed : 31 July 1984
This was good fun if you didn't take it too seriously and didn't mind that every idea it had was at least second hand.
The expensive US mini-series started with the descent on Earth of large alien spaceships bearing friendly humanoid aliens willing to share their advanced technological benefits with us if we let them hang around. Most humans welcomed the offer but a few led by Mike Donovan ( Marc Singer, a poor man's Kevin Bacon ) and Dr Julie Parrish ( gorgeous blonde Faye Grant ) are suspicious and uncover the visitors' deadly secret, they are really reptiles with a penchant for devouring live rodents ( possibly the inspiration for The Sun's infamous Freddie Starr headline ) and are harvesting the earth's population for food. As the aliens' regime on earth becomes more obviously repressive - a fusion of elements from the Nazis, 1984 and the Khmer Rouge , a resistance movement emerges , aided by alien fifth columnists represented by Martin ( Frank Ashmore ) . It's also helped by Donovan's remarkable ability to use alien weapons and spacecraft more skilfully than the aliens themselves.
The chief villain was Diana ( Faye Badler ) who added an extra ingredient of Mengele-like evil to the visitors' plans with her medical experiments including getting a young girl Robin ( Blair Tefkin ) pregnant with alien spunk provided by Brian ( Peter Nelson ). The caesarian birth scene where the girl has twins, a girl with a forked tongue and a reptilian boy is a blatant steal from Alien. Other notable characters were innocent drone alien Willie ( Robert Englund ) , Dan Bernstein ( David Packer ) a Jewish boy who, with tasteless irony, joins the equivalent of the Hitler Youth and Ham Tyler a resistance chief played by Michael Ironside and his black leather jacket. This was my first sighting of this versatile actor who not only plays the same character in every film but also wears the same clothes.
Eventually, the humans get the upper hand by developing a bacterial weapon a la War of the Worlds and Diana's response of total annihilation is thwarted by her own prodigy, Robin's daughter , the "star-child" Elisabeth ( Jenny Beck ). A sequel ( although in fact what we saw was two separate mini-series in the US run together ) was telegraphed by Diana's Darth Vader-esque escape at the end.
This materialised in 1986 although as a 19-part regular series of hour long episodes. It was shown late at night on a Friday . Apart from those killed in the climactic battles of the original series, the same cast returned with some new additions such as Lydia ( June Chadwick ), a professional rival to Diana facilitating some Dynasty-syle bitchery. Martin was killed in the first episode but later his clone Philip arrives on the scene. I thought it was OK and stayed with it but it was expensive to make, critically savaged and weakened by Ironside's departure midway through the series. Although it ended on a cliffhanger there was no further season.
There was a reboot in 2009 but in the UK it was only shown on Syfy and Virgin1 channels. Singer went on to appear in Dallas for a season. I thought Grant would be a big star but apart from the Richard Gere film Internal Affairs in which she played a very unsympathetic character I never saw her again.