Previously during this crate theme, we’ve examined some of the great shows directly influenced by The X-Files in style and tone… but what about the show’s topical siblings across the ages of TV, the other shows that deal with alien invaders of some sort?
Granted, the invasion mythology was just part of what made The X-Files iconic (and many fans would argue that the standalone episodes were usually better); nevertheless, a close encounter with creatures from another world has been a popular television premise from the days of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits onward toward today’s Peak TV era. We wanted to gather an eclectic bunch for this week’s Friday Five, and we think you’ll find we succeeded!…
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
If you were born any time in the 1980s onward, the word “Supermarionation” probably makes you wonder what Nintendo is up to. In fact, that’s “mario-” as in marionettes, and it refers to the distinctive puppet-animation style of Britain’s Gerry Anderson; by far Anderson’s best-known title is Thunderbirds, but today we’re highlighting another of his retro scifi classics. To be fair, the adventures of galactic security agent Captain Scarlet actually start after mankind invades somewhere else; a misunderstanding leads to an attack on the Martian city belonging to the Mysterons, who subsequently declare war. Leading man Scarlet takes on some of the Mysterons healing abilities, and his James Bond-meets-Buck Rogers style saga begins…
V (original series)
Hey, speaking of the 1980s! – if you were old enough to not get terrified by some freaky reptilian special effects, chances are you were one of the millions who tuned in when invasion epic V made its debut in 1983. The NBC two-parter married classic War of the Worlds paranoia with what, at the time, was cutting edge FX. (Fake-Diana dislodging her jaw to swallow a whole guinea pig really looks goofy now, but in the most endearing way.) And it starred The Beastmaster! Must-See TV! V: The Final Battle followed in ’84, and that title was a total lie because a weekly series (pictured above) eventually arrived, though it was less-beloved than the miniseries events. (We won’t go into the ABC remake from several years back. It still feels like so much wasted potential…)
Back when the CW was still the WB (and before, like its counterpart Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it made the move to UPN eventually), Roswell was at the forefront of teen angst-meets-genre storytelling. And it was, of course, about a real-life conspiracy theory – that aliens landed in Roswell, New Mexico – but the fun twist here is that they’re the most low-key invaders of all time, disguised as teenagers in the nearby town. Where, of course, dreamy Max falls in love with local girl Liz. It only lasted three seasons, but fans were so passionate that they sent bottles of Tabasco sauce (the aliens’ favorite condiment) to the network to try to save it; a reboot of the franchise, also based on Melissa Metz’s book series and entitled Roswell, New Mexico launches later this year. (It likely won’t have that Dido earworm for its opening title, though.)
Probably the most unique thing about TNT’s Falling Skies in the “invaders from another world” genre is its distance from the actual invasion event. Very much a scifi epic of the Walking Dead era (it debuted one year later), the show chooses instead to examine the aftermath of an apocalyptic attack, in which multiple races of aliens have wrestled control of Earth and most of humanity were killed. Noah Wyle takes the scrappy hero persona he honed in the Librarian films and goes way darker, as he tries to protect his son as well as a group of resistance fighters from their captors. Falling Skies lasted four seasons, and blissfully did offer a motive for the aliens’ invasion before it concluded. (Never did seem as creepy as the fact that they straight-up dog-collared and enslaved our kids first, though. Yeesh.)
At first glance, NBC’s current saga of invaders making the lives of Earthlings really damn complicated seems to share a lot of DNA with Falling Skies; both take place after the invaders (here called “Hosts”) have swarmed our cities, and chronicle what life is like after the world “ends”… including, of course, some kind of resistance movement. Where Colony provides its unique spin is hinted at in the title; the hosts have decided, seemingly arbitrarily, to create colonies where a select elite of humanity get to have a comfortable (albeit rationed) existence while the rest of them fend for themselves outside the massive walls. The show therefore has a strong undercurrent of class warfare (and moral obligation to one’s own) sewn into its storytelling, which makes it so compelling; leads Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies, as a married couple withholding secrets about their allegiances, are the perfect central pair.