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A much under-valued sci-fi epic
on 4 March 2006
Invasion Earth suffered badly from its pre-show hype, it should be noted. Not unlike Operation Thunder Child, it was billed as the BBC’s answer to Independence Day. This deluded millions of viewers; viewing numbers dropped sharply after the first episode and remained low during the second and third. Despite the awesome (and very fast-paced) ending, told over the last three episodes, it was never as popular as it should have been.
I believe that that represents a quantitative difference between American and British sci-fi movies. In America, the enemy is very clear, such as the massive UFOs of Independence Day. The USAF, or the Marines, or some all-American jock saves the day, wins the girl, etc. Alternatively, the aliens are friendly (ET, The Day The Earth Stood Still) and the real enemy is the military-industrial complex, which of course cannot allow the aliens to bring world peace and harmony.
British sci-fi, with the exception of Doctor Who, tends to follow a different path. The enemy is indistinct, hidden, seen only in flickering shadows. In many ways, there are clear influences from Quartermass in The X Files, which would have been a far better comparison for Invasion Earth.
The plot is fairly simple, by the standards of British sci-fi. An alien spacecraft is detected and shot down by the RAF, which reveals that the pilot is in fact human and chased by both the military and another alien faction. The attempts by the nDs, as the second faction becomes known as, to kidnap the pilot provides the series with its first element of creeping horror, another stable of British sci-fi. It rapidly becomes clear that the first alien faction has lost its war…and the nDs are coming for Earth…
The nDs themselves are nothing like the Daleks. Extradimensional creatures, they move around by opening portals into our dimension and using biological warfare to convert humans into miniature farms for their expansion. They are powerful and they cannot be stopped…there is only one way to convince them to leave.
Some critics, when they had stopped raving about the lack of exploding spacecraft, claimed that the series had no clearly defined end. That is incorrect; the series had a clearly defined and chilling end – it was the perfect place to end the series.
Now that Invasion Earth has – FINALLY – been released on DVD, it seemed like the perfect time to review it for people who are sick of exploding spacecraft and want something more cerebral. It may not be quite as visually exciting as Independence Day, but it certainly has a better plot.
"The Last War"
A UFO is shot down over Scotland while it was sending a signal into space. Frustrated by the RAF cover-up, the pilot who downed the craft teams up with a scientist who caught its transmission to find out what the craft was…while there are hints that there is more than one alien race out there.
"The Fourth Dimension"
After a yellow portal appears for a short time trying to drag in the UFO pilot, they decide to remove the implant discovered in his teeth. But as the implant is taken for analysis another portal appears which draws Friday, Tucker and three soldiers into it. Frustrated at his inability to stop it, Reece condones a brutal interrogation of the pilot.
"Only the Dead"
While they manage to get some of the UFO's systems working, the pilot finally tells his story…and reveals the existence of the monstrous NDs.
"The Fall of Man"
Unable to convince his superiors of the existence of the NDs, Reece tries to trap one using Terell's craft as bait…unaware that the NDs only want one thing from the craft. Meanwhile, The town of Kirkhaven becomes the focus as more and more of its inhabitants succumb to the disease spread by Cdr. Friday.
"The Battle More Costly"
Meanwhile Shay tries to find a way to detect the gates, while Preston researches a ND toxin. Victory seems likely…but the nDs have more than one trick in their store…
"The Shatterer of Worlds"
A huge black hill appears outside Kirkhaven, slowly enveloping more and more land. When even heavy artillery fire leaves it unharmed, Reece decides that someone must try to fly though it and gather data…and discover the price for ending the threat forever.