The Midwich Cuckoos
For a single day, all the towns people of Midwich collapse, and when they awake, all the women of childbearing age are pregnant.
Spoiler Level: Mild
The Midwich Cuckoos is a new British television series based on a novel written by John Wyndham in 1957. A cuckoo is a brood parasitic bird that lays their eggs in another bird’s nest, the egg hatches earlier than the hosts and the chick usually evicts the eggs or the young of the host bird. This has direct correlation to what happens in the Novel and in the movies and television series. In the small town of Midwich, one evening, all living things collapse in an unconscious state. The military is called in and begins trying to figure out whether the people within the affected zone are alive or dead, but no one can get near enough to find out. Just as they are about to evacuate all the inhabitants outside of the zone, everyone begins to awake, and all the women of childbearing age who had been unconscious intuitively know that they are now pregnant. Which is where episode one ends.
This isn’t the first time, or even the second that the novel has been adapted for live action media. The first was a 1960 film called Village of the Damned and due to its success, a sequel, Children of the Damned was produced soon afterwards. A remake of the 1960 movie as made in 1995 by John Carpenter and featured Kirstie Alley and Christopher Reeve in his last movie role before he became paralyzed. Several radio productions of the story have also been broadcast throughout the years. The luxury that a television series has over a movie is the amount of time it can take with introducing characters and revealing back stories. This adds a complexity to the story that can be good or bad and is a matter of taste. The movies had a simplicity to the characters that added to the horror, where the television series can take its time, allowing the character interaction to take a forefront which adds to the emotional connection.
Therapist, Dr. Susannah Zellaby (Keeley Hawes) is a single mother trying to help her adult daughter who is dealing with some issues. DCI Paul Haynes (Max Beesley) is trying to keep everything together during the “Blackout” even though his pregnant wife is one of the people within the affected zone. Couple Zoe (Aisling Loftus) and Sam (Ukweli Roach) have just moved to Midwich arriving that very day. It is hinted that Zoe has not been able to conceive a child and that Zoe’s mother doesn’t like Sam. It is hinted at, that all the characters we are introduced to carry some kind of secret or emotional baggage, giving the series a good base to build upon. And the actors do a great job at subtly displaying this, without making the pilot feel heavy handed or overwhelming with too much information.
The script is well written, and the story has a nice rhythm, although did feel a bit sluggish in the beginning. There isn’t a lot of special effects, but for the little there is it was passable, especially for a British production. The production does a good job at creating a creepy atmosphere, specifically with the use of animals sensing something was wrong and, in the music, and sound effects and sometimes the very lack of sound. There is a very strong moment near the end of the episode, where all sound and music was cut except for Dr. Zellaby answering her phone. The absence of sound was a brilliant choice that highlighted the very terror of what was happening to these characters.
The episodes will come out weekly on Sky Max, but Sky On Demand has released all seven of the episodes at once, but I only had time to watch the first. Overall the show was very well written, acted and produced with some amazingly strong directorial and editing choices. I have a personal dislike with stories that involve children or animals as the villain, so I am not sure I will continue watching the entire series, but the story is intriguing and the original 1960s Village of the Damned was one of my mother’s favorite movies, so I may watch it just for nostalgic reasons.
The Midwich Cuckoos: Well, I’ll be Damned!
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 10/1010/10
- Production - 8/108/10
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