The serials which the BBC Children's Department produced in the 1980s were often quality productions and frequently dipped into the realms of fantasy. Many were period pieces, but Aliens In The Family is something of a rarity in that it was a contemporary sci-fi adventure. Even more unusually, it tackles the issue of the modern family unit - that is, children suddenly having to accept new family members when their parents remarry.
In this case teenage tomboy Jacqueline, who prefers to be known as Jake and dresses like a cowboy, leaves home to spend the holidays with her father, his new wife and her children from her previous marriage - teenage daughter Dora and younger son Lewis. Jake and the more feminine Dora are struggling to come to terms with their parents' new relationship and, likewise, regard one another with antipathy. Amidst all this upheaval, the girls befriend a mysterious young man named Bond, who turns out to be an alien visiting Earth to gather information, and who is being pursued by the evil Wirdegens. By helping Bond escape them, the two girls slowly grow to respect and like one another.
In tackling the sensitive subject of children affected by the break-up of their parents' marriage, this serial was bravely facing an issue which must have touched a significant percentage of its 1980s audience when few other children's dramas were doing so.
Unfortunately the science fiction element, which was probably its big draw, plays very much second fiddle and is very lightweight, from some cheap effects (though the alien make-up is passable) to a rather vague and illogical reasoning behind Bond's mission on Earth (why does his sister have to be disguised as a radio?) There's a sequence where the protagonists are transported back through time, but... Well, since they're in a field, you can't tell the difference anyway. Even more bizarrely, the Wirdegen threat is dismissed at the climax through a plot device that leaves the viewer feeling cheated, and we're left knowing no more about this mysterious force than when the serial started.
The two leads, Sophie Bold and Clare Wilkie, deliver rather wooden performances that fail to capture the intensity of emotion that their characters are experiencing, and the videotaped look of the whole serial lends a pervading air of cheapness throughout. Roger Limb provides one of his trademark tinny synthesised soundtracks, which again fails to lend any gravitas to the drama.
The young viewers at the time may retain a certain affection for this serial, but the BBC's other children's dramas from the time, such as "Moondial" and "Running Scared", are streets ahead in terms of execution.
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