There were two things that struck me about that made it so very good: the first occurred in the second episode, after the attack on Earth. A main character started a journey across London on foot. The camera tracked back and you saw all the bodies lying scattered everywhere, cars (no longer working) parked at odd angles, the world come to a dead stop.
It was a devastating scene. Watching it just days after the lockdown came into force made it so much more terrifying. It foreshadowed exactly those first few days of the lockdown when the streets were suddenly empty of traffic and you tried frantically to avoid anyone out for a walk in case they breathed on you.
What made it so brilliant was the unearthly silence. And this is the second thing that struck me about this series: the quiet. The silence. The muted scenes. Unlike your usual end-of-world movie, there was no screaming, no crashing sounds of destruction, no weapons fire, no overwhelming Hans Zimmer-style soundtrack. This alien invasion was a horrible, silent, creeping thing and this is what made this version of a very well-known tale stand way above any other production.
And there have been a few! Wasn’t it just the other day I was watching a BBC production set when it was actually supposed to be set: in the Edwardian era. It seemed quite promising at first. The female lead was set up as a strong character and the production looked good. But it seemed to go awry somehow and I got very tired of that dusty red future we kept cutting to, particularly as there seemed to be no story. And suddenly our heroine was almost superfluous. The plot kind of ran out of steam and whatever it was trying to say was rather lost.
The Fox TV series has fewer pretensions. Set in the current day in France (with subtitles!) and England (I kept trying to work out where in London they were but it was actually filmed in Bristol!), it was a world instantly recognisable, one in which the viewer could quite easily identify with and ask: what would I do if this invasion happened to me. There are no heroes. The main characters are not always likeable. The story seems to both crawl and race at the same time, and sometimes there seems to be very little story. Tension levels are either high or very high, with no breathing space ever. Events played out in crap hotel rooms or empty streets, or a French observatory. The aliens look kind of stupid, to be honest, and they are actually stupid, resembling metallic dog-things that creak ominously when they walk. And yet they proved to be really scary, particularly as they never seem to miss when they shoot.
It doesn’t sound all that promising when I tell you the characters spend quite a lot of time walking, but this is Walking While Very Tense. The unravelling of character’s individual storylines was made more interesting by the lack of soap-style drama, into which this never descended. Most captivating of all was the overriding mystery: a blind girl hears a weird noise, can see again, has some kind of connection with the aliens and you know that tattoo she gets right at the beginning of the series? HAH!
I found myself screeching and tearing my hair out when the end credits came up at the end of the last episode. Was this the END?? But, no, there is a second series coming. I can’t wait.