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West Bromwich Alien 1 - 0 Human United

To recap, then. In the preceding episodes, following the shooting down of a spaceship, unspeakable terrors have been visited upon Scotland - or so we assume. Amidst all the endless talking, the frustratingly dark sets, and the complete lack of tension or action, it feels as though little has happened at all. Still, as this is the final episode, something decisive has got to happen, right?

On to episode six, then. Golly, it's all just so exciting.

Following a failed attempt to poison the alien invaders, a giant, grey, jellyfish mountain has fetched up in Scotland. I think it's some sort of command outpost, but it's an odd stylistic choice. I don't know why, but it doesn't look remotely threatening. In response to its arrival, everybody talks very urgently, and says the word "phenomenon" so often that it fast becomes very funny indeed, which may not have been the desired effect. Air Marshall John Shrapnel orders lots of missiles fired into the mountain, and when that fails to do any good, he bravely runs away, leaving the established cast to deal with the crisis. "I'll report back to NATO!" he announces, for all the world as though he's doing them a favour. Everybody else then stands around and talks a lot about what's happened so far. Moreover, they do it in a succession of really dark places, just in case there are a few viewers who haven't quite got the less-subtle-than-a-ton-of-bricks symbolism about bleakness and hopelessness and stolen light bulbs.

Back in the lab, chief medical boffin has a bombshell to drop. Amanda is continuing to mutate, the toxin has failed, and soon she'll begin carrying out the nDs' dastardly plans. Additionally, it looks as though Scotland is a dry run for a series of identical attacks on a number of places around the world. "Soon there'll be an Amanda Tucker for everyone!" says the boffin. I suspect that she means "for every one," as in "for every one of those other places," but what she actually says is a good deal more terrifying. Trying to give everybody their own Amanda Tucker is surely the most dastardly plot attempted by invading aliens yet.

In a slightly different, but equally badly lit room, wooden boffin is beetling away on his laptop. He eventually manages to discover a way to communicate with the nDs, and runs off on his own to try talking to them, leading everybody to decide that they'll have to shoot him in case he says something inadvisable. That's gratitude for you. Bright thinking, too. Yes, do let's kill our sole technical operative, just as he's made our sole useful breakthrough. That'll do our battle plans no end of good. He's really irritating, granted, but even so. Eventually, at the last minute, they decide not to shoot him, only for the aliens to swipe him instead. So he'd probably rather have been shot anyway. Oh well.

Back at base, General Reece and co decide that somebody is going to have to fly an aeroplane into the phenomenon - they really have got to stop saying that word - to see what's in it. Squadron Leader Knox insists that it be her, as penance for thinking that the aliens were Russians. This is the cue for some urgent and dimly lit flying, and crackly talk on a failing radio link, a scene which absolutely hasn't been played out a million times before in other productions. Then there's silence, and Squadron Leader Knox is no more. Aw. Shame. This causes lots of dramatic staring, and even a bit of agitated walking. Worse still, it causes a prolonged outbreak of everything going diagonal. Before she lost contact, though, she was able to send back some data, which Drake and Tucker begin analysing. This involves typing, and not a lot else.

In another part of the building, chief medical boffin gets some results back from a soil survey, for some reason on old-style seventies computer print-out paper. I'd really like to think that the RAF was better equipped than that in 1997, but it probably wasn't. It tells her that the giant mountain is feeding on the ground, and that the only way to stop the alien advance is to kill all organic matter in the vicinity - basically the answer is to nuke Scotland. This is a very oddly played out sequence, though. Whether the fault lies in the script, or in the way in which scenes tend to be filmed out of order, I don't know, but it all fits together very badly. Firstly she announces that she knows what the data means; but in the next scene she seems to still be working it out, and suddenly realises then what is means. A little later, she seems to realise all over again. Then, after seeking everybody out to tell them her news, she asks them to ignore it. Not telling them in the first place might have been simpler. Reece, however, thinks that it all sounds like a grand plan, and decides to nuke Scotland immediately. He orders a total evacuation within a fifty mile radius of the mountain; which doesn't sound like much when you're planning to drop a nuclear bomb, does it. Drake and Tucker think that they have a better plan, though. The alien mountain, they say, is linked to a network of similar mountains, drifting in the ether, and waiting for their chance to appear (how they know this, I have no idea, but it involved lots of typing in the dark, and now it's all just more talking, and I really don't give a damn). Anyway, if they blow their mountain up, it'll blow the others up, and this will stop the aliens from invading Earth. Possibly. Why will any of this happen? It just will, that's all. Drake is eager to commit suicide by giving it a go, and I certainly don't plan on stopping him. Even better, Tucker elects to go along as well.

This leads to an odd sequence deep inside the jelly mountain, full of awkward dialogue and urgently flashing lights. It's not exactly devoid of tension, but bearing in mind that we're now in the last quarter of the final episode, and this is the first remotely decisive thing that anybody has done, it's all a bit 'too little, too late'. The bomb is delivered, there's some turbulence and a brief light show, and the evil mountain is apparently defeated. There's even a 'triumphant' scene as Drake and Tucker zoom out of the ruins in their aeroplane. Except it isn't triumphant, because there's been no build up to it, and no real sense of peril. It all just happens, and that's that. Then lots of people move about back at base in a manner that is probably celebratory, but it's too dark to tell. There's no real reason to celebrate anyway, as the mountain renews itself in an instant, and then begins to advance. Oh well. Guess we'll just have to nuke Scotland then, huh.

Tucker marks the occasion by talking a lot about what's happening. She also decides that she'd best be nuked as well, because of the mutation, and tells Drake that he can't stay with her because her daughter needs him. Even though they've only had one scene together, in which they talked about cabbage. Still, it's probably best not to argue. General Reece then gives a speech about showing the aliens that humanity means business. He plans to nuke everything that the nDs touch, just to make a point. That'll show them. Presumably they're expected to be impressed by this gargantuan display of group idiocy, and leave. Or giggle. One or the other.

And then they nuke Scotland. The end. It really is the end, too. Whether the plan worked or not, we never find out. I guess we're not supposed to, as the story was intended to be about this particular struggle, and that has effectively come to its end; but the result is six episodes in which nothing much happens, in a story that never goes anywhere. Perhaps, instead of nuking Scotland, they should just have shown the nDs this series? I'm sure it would have had a much more immediate effect.

Anyway, on to the pictures. They're positively thrilling.

A giant jellyfish mountain, with small army trucks for scale.

The giant mountain is alarming.

But have no fear! For see, there are rockets.

"Whoosh!" go the rockets.

The rockets do nothing. Air Marshall John Shrapnel panics briefly, and then runs away.

Some other people are also a bit worried about the imperviousness of the mountain. Others still, not so much.

Meanwhile, Jo Dow has a really big hat.

Drake and Tucker decide that the best thing to do is go and talk about stuff in a really dark room.

Whilst elsewhere, the RAF decide to shoot the wooden boffin. Not because he's wooden, but because... oh, they want to shoot him. Let's just leave it at that.

I love how the bloke in back is helping to hold the gun. Not very Rambo, is it.

Wooden boffin nervously approaches the giant, wobbly mountain, planning on saying something to it on his laptop. What, I don't know. What exactly does one say to a giant, invading mountain made of jellyfish, tentacles and slime?

"Arggghhhhh!", apparently.

The loss of her old friend may be affecting Tucker greatly, or it may not be affecting her at all. Since she reacts to it in the same way she reacts to everything else - by sitting in the dark and looking at nothing much in particular - it's rather hard to tell.

A couple of miles away, inside the mountain, wooden boffin meets his end under a deadly onslaught of custard.

He's not the last loss for the team. As Squadron Leader Knox flies into oblivion, General Reece goes all diagonal in his manly grief.

Whilst Tucker and Drake do some urgent typing in a dark room. For almost the entire episode. Yep, that'll help.

So will that. Nothing like a bit of standing still in a dark room to defeat the enemy.

Watch the tension mount. It's breathlessly exciting stuff, this.

I'm not sure whether to laugh at this scene or hide from it. Worried that Tucker's mutating arm may be affecting her brain, and causing her to do the aliens' bidding, Reece grabs her and demands to know whose side she's on. The awfulness of the acting has to be seen to be believed.

As the world grows steadily more diagonal, Tucker and Drake cling to each other to avoid falling out of the show. Then they go and bomb the mountain, in an effort to wake the audience up for a bit.

Some extras (or they may be well known actors. Who can tell?) celebrate the bombing of the mountain. Possibly. They do something, anyway.

But the mountain is growing back! Run away! Run away!

Drake and Tucker decide to go and discuss all of this in a dark room. It's a bigger room this time, but it's still stupidly dark. Are those blinds nailed to the bloody windows?

Whilst oddly fascinated by Drake's chest, Reece announces that he's perfectly prepared to blow up the world, if it'll stop the nDs from destroying it. Hopefully this will show the enemy that they're a force to be reckoned with, and not just a convenient source of tasty serotonin. Besides which, detonating a nuclear bomb probably sounds like a good idea when you've just spent six episodes growling in a dark room, with absolutely nothing else to do.

The support cast stand around and listen, whilst probably counting down the minutes until they can finally escape from the plot. Farewell, Jo Dow. I'm sure you shouted "Spread out!" and "Fire!" with the best of them. Might have been nice if you'd had a bit more to do than that, though.

Left alone, as everybody else presumably runs across the border to England, Amanda Tucker watches a plane approach, ready to nuke anything that'll stand still long enough.

Then she gets vapourised. This may or may not have scared away the aliens. Possibly there was supposed to be a sequel? What a truly enthralling prospect.

In conclusion then, what we have here is potentially a good story, trying but ultimately failing to get out through layers of appalling acting, hopeless direction, and dreadful dialogue. As three or maybe four episodes, it might have worked. As six it's a turgid lot of hopelessly uneventful nonsense. Did the BBC learn nothing from seventies Doctor Who?! Don't turn a four episode adventure into a six episode one just to fill a hole in the schedules. It never works.

On the other hand, there's certainly potential in a bleak miniseries about humanity fighting an apparently unbeatable foe. Children Of Earth (by contrast a critical and popular success) was based on similar lines, although ultimately it wasn't as bleak as I suspect that Invasion: Earth was trying to be. It was a very different type of show, of course; and by all accounts it was made under a completely different set of circumstances. Rumours abound of great interference from high up during the making of I:E - rewrites, etc, and general meddling. I'd certainly prefer to believe that that's why the show is so bad, rather than it having been purposely written that way. Maybe it was originally meant to be shorter? Surely nobody could really have thought that a six part series where people endlessly talk about what's happening, whilst never actually doing anything about it, was a good idea? The casting is a different question, mind. Whatever the reasons, the result is the high budget, highly publicised, agonisingly prolonged death of British TV sci-fi. A temporary death only as it turned out, but nonetheless, as TV projects go, it's not exactly what you might call a success.

Still, on the plus side, at least they nuked Amanda Tucker. Every cloud and all that. The only downside to that plot development is that there was no way of fixing things so they could get Chris Drake while they were at it. He lives on, free to terrorise the world anew. Perhaps ultimately, therefore, this battle can only be considered a severe and humiliating defeat for humankind.

(And especially Scotland).


( 2 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Nov. 19th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
I remember distincly screaming at the ending. Possibly from frustration or the sheer unbelivability of the plot.
Nov. 19th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
Or both. Either way, a wholly understandable reaction.

I was watching with my younger sister, as we were still living together at the time. We both just stared at the screen in a sort of dumbfounded befuzzlement, then agreed that it was probably our fault for having stayed with it until the end.
( 2 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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