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"Dark Skies" The Awakening (1996)

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Watching the skies

9/10
Author: ShadeGrenade from Ambrosia
25 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Created by Bryce Zabel, 'Dark Skies' is one of television science fiction's all-time great 'maybe' series - maybe it could have been a classic had it been given a chance. It is August 1963, and idealistic congressman John Loengard ( Eric Close, looking remarkably like the young Robert Redford ) and girlfriend Kimberly Sayers ( Megan Ward ) move to Washington during the Kennedy administration. During a routine fact-finding assignment, he meets Barney and Betty Hill, who claim to have been abducted by a U.F.O. Someone else is interested in Loengard's investigations, and rough him up to stop him making further enquiries. They are led by Captain Frank Bach ( J.T. Walsh ), head of the secret government organisation 'Majestic-12' which has effectively covered up the existence of aliens ever since a violent incident at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. A race known as 'The Hive' can take over people's bodies. While examining strange glyphs in a huge crop circle, Loengard is almost run over by a possessed farmer. Determined to expose the aliens' presence on Earth, he goes straight to the top, no less than J.F.K. himself...

'Dark Skies', inspired by the 'X-Files' phenomenon, repeated many of that earlier show's ingredients - an investigative man and woman duo, sinister Government figures, alien abductions, cover-up's and so on. What made the show enjoyable was that the plots tied in with real historical events, such as Kennedy's assassination ( it shot itself in the foot from time to time, particularly with the episode 'A Dark Days' Night ) and famous personages in U.S. history. Zabel's plan was that with each new season the story should move on a year or two, taking us eventually into the present day. It would have been interesting to see this happen, but ratings were disappointing and the axe fell after only 18 episodes.

This opener was stylishly directed by Tobe Hooper, who gave the world 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and the splendid 'Salem's Lot' mini-series. It nicely recaptures the optimism of early '60's America, and J.T. Walsh ( who sadly passed on not long afterwards ) is impressive as 'Bach'. Aside from a silly scene in which John expels a ganglion ( the name given to individual Hive members ) from Kim's body by forcing her to drink what looks like a foaming pint of milk, this is a gripping piece of television. The justification for Kennedy's death is that he was slain on Bach's orders because he was about to blow the lid on the cover-up ( funny how The Warren Commission missed that! ). Another nice touch was the series' use of '60's pop music. It seems a shame though it was pulled off the air before it had a chance to establish itself as something greater than a mere 'X-Files' carbon copy.

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