Wednesday, 18 May 2022


Space Invaders

USA October - December 2021
Series 1 Ten episodes

Warning: This one has spoilers invading the reading space.

Okay, so ignoring the many other films and TV shows with the exact same title, Invasion is a new episodic serial which was broadcast at the end of last year. Now, I can’t quite remember how I first heard of it, it may have been a semi-recommendation on the All The Colours Of The Dark podcast but, truth be told, I wasn’t going to bother with it. Then, however, I found out that there had been a CD release of some of Max Richter’s score for the show. Well, okay then, now I had to watch it (the CD should also be joining me through my letterbox at some point today, as I type these words, too).

And I’m glad I did because it’s a phenomenally intense show about an apparently hostile alien invasion of planet Earth, told through the lens of four different characters in different parts of the world. Well, okay, five different characters initially, but one drops out of the narrative in the first episode (the expensive one), which comprises the openings (and in one case closing) of three of the simultaneous running stories of people trying to survive the next week, with two more characters in different time zones on the planet starting up from the second episode onwards.

So we have Sam Neil as a small town sheriff in the US. If you can believe it, he’s on his last day of work before retirement and the writers totally run with that cliché and take it to its more than obvious conclusion at the end of the first episode. Then we have Mitsuki, played by Shioli Kutsuna. She works for the Japanese space agency JASA as a technician and, in the first episode, her astronaut girlfriend blasts off into space but encounters something deadly there. Mitsuki needs to know what happened to her and how her spacecraft was damaged, at whatever cost.

Next up is Aneesha, played by Golshifteh Farahani. She is the mother of two children living happily with her husband until the day she finds out he’s been having an affair with another woman and is about to leave her... right as the world finds itself under attack and the two of them have to put their new differences aside to try and ensure their kids’ survival. Then we have Shamier Anderson as Trevante, a soldier in the Middle East whose entire troop (and more) is taken out during an ‘alien encounter’. Alone, wounded and confused, he just needs to get out of the country and back home to America to make peace with his wronged wife.

And lastly there’s Caspar, played brilliantly by Billy Barratt. He’s one of a group of school children who find themselves stranded in the country and trapped in a huge crater after an alien attack, where it all gets a bit Lord Of The Flies for a while. I’d have to say that he’s, for me, the best thing in the show and totally carries it... along with his schoolgirl love interest played strongly by India Brown and an equally brilliant performance from Paddy Holland as the hateful school bully, who we find is more than just a two dimensional presence and a much more complex, fragile character himself.

And it’s all kinda great. The four story strands never really threaten to come together as they’re supposed to be four different viewpoints on the slowly emerging picture of the attacking aliens although, it has to be said, two of the least likely threads you would expect to join up do overlap and characters ‘team up’, so to speak, in London in the penultimate episode of the first season. And this way of looking at four simultaneous storylines throughout kept me absolutely hooked, as it makes for an intriguing, slow reveal on everything, not unwrapping its secrets too early and allowing the intensity of the mystery and strong (sometimes even brutal in terms of emotional punchiness) events and encounters to build and create almost unbearable suspense. I couldn’t stop watching this thing and binged the whole thing in a couple of evenings.

There are odd things about it too but, that just adds to the freshness, for the most part. For instance, there’s a change to the format in one, shorter episode which focuses on only one of the sets of characters I mentioned earlier and, it’s very much in the vein of the old War Of The Worlds moment where everyone is trying to stay out of reach of an alien invader which is loose in a house, trying not to alert it to their presence as they know that if they do, the end would be relatively swift. Also, there’s an odd subplot involving this same set of characters towards the end of the run where they are being hunted by a splinter group of humans for, honestly, no good reason that I could fathom. Not sure what was going on there, to be honest. It’s taut and one, long suffering character, cashes in their chips at this point but, yeah, no idea why.

My biggest surprise and delight, though, was when we first meet the schoolchildren in episode two at, as the caption says, London, England, United Kingdom, Earth (which does suggest that, at some point in a future season, we might not necessarily be on Earth anymore). The thing is, the kids start off in my small home town of Enfield. There’s the market place with the band stand five minutes from where I live, a reverse shot of a bus going past Pearsons of Enfield, before they go into the Grammar School I used to attend and get on a school bus (which inexplicably goes over Tower Bridge a minute later). I had no idea this was being shot here and, judging by how crowded the streets are, I can only assume the scenes were taken with small cameras hidden from the public. I can’t see how they would have managed to lock down the area here in Enfield Town for shooting without a lot of people knowing about it. But it was great to see my home town on screen, in a big budget US sci-fi/horror show, no less.

There’s also the odd thing where the wrap up comes in the ninth of the ten episodes (where another major character dies although, it would seem, that also isn’t the last we’ll hear of that character, perhaps, since there’s still obviously some brain activity in there, even if this person isn't breathing anymore). Everything seems concluded in the ninth and, mostly episode ten just deals with the aftermath but, because of the way events have unfolded (and the insistence of one character that things aren’t necessarily over, plus her sinister kid who obviously knows something), you kinda know they’re building to something else and, sure enough, something happens at the conclusion of the last episode that sets up the next season of Invasion.

Which, I’m delighted to say, has been commissioned and is currently scheduled to release in the Autumn. I wasn’t sure it would because, when I saw a load of reviews of this, I was absolutely gobsmacked to find that most people seemed to hate the show. Furthermore, they seemed to hate it for all the reasons that I loved it. So that’s a bit strange.

And that’s me done with Invasion until the second series comes along... I’d recommend it to anyone. Looking at some of the criticisms the show has received, they all seem to centre on the fragmentary nature of the story but, for me, this is what kept the show alive. Admittedly, the ditching of a main story arc from the first episode seems a little strange and one wonders if there was some production trouble at some point, which necessitated a change to the script. Also, there are a heck of a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions within the show so, yeah, I think it’s perfectly credible to assume the writers have more to say on this one. I hope the second season doesn’t spoil the excellent work done here and, yeah, I can’t wait to see it.

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