The nineties was a pretty quiet era for British TV Sci-fi. Still convinced that genetically they could only do crap special effects, and wary of cost, the output that did limp out was remarkably parochial. And often remarkably poor. Invasion: Earth (get that colon) was BBC1 only attempt in the decade at adult sci-fi. Probably convinced into it by the writer Jed Mercurio’s massive success with Cardiac Arrest they allowed him the keys to a forbidden genre. And a more tedious military cum invasion drama could not be thought of.
Having recently seen the opening episode again, it is no wonder the series did not stay the course. Whilst the insubordinate army guy is a staple in such fiction, a more unpleasant insubordinate army guy you could not hope to meet as our nominal hero. In deciding for no good reason to shoot down a UFO he also kills his best mate (who he had previously been bullying about being too fat), who had just had a kid. His insubordination was not for any heroic reasons, it was pure ignorance and cowardice, and we know exactly what should happen to the guy who shoots at the alium out of fear. The alien, cobbling together a few bits of second hand plot device powers, gets shot again, and finally captured in a quarry (so much for big budget). And the big reveal is that there aren’t just humanoid aliens out there, there are also evil “monsters”. By then you don’t care because everyone is rude to everyone else, and unpleasant.
The sad thing is this was commissioned because of the writing, and it is clear that Mercurio was pushing for the kind of moral ambiguities which fuelled Cardiac Arrest (and now Bodies). He left out the black humour though, and replaced them with sci-fi clichés. And if this was commissioned on the writing alone, wither this line from the first five minutes of the second show?
“Don’t you understand? There are two sets of aliens. Two. A duality. More than one. Less than three. Half a ballerina’s dress.” Clunk.