Did we like it?
Although moments of promise and intrigue bubbled up from the fathoms of the Florida Everglades, much of the plotting was too mired in the sticky swamp of domesticity.
What was good about it?
• Once you’d cut a wearying swathe through the opening episode and its cumbersome introduction of the cast, the plot was well-paced and by the end of the third chapter you immediately sensed the danger in the form of bubbling water, in much the same way that in Lost a downpour is a harbinger of peril.
• Also, when Sheriff Underlay, who has already been so branded as evil he may as well grow some horns and a forked tail, took journalist Larkin to see what the army (or was it the airforce?) was up to he seemed flummoxed as what the authorities were doing, giving depth to storyline.
• While it may try and string out the true root of the menace for as long as Lost, there were indications that it wasn’t aliens. We know this as the character most susceptible to such suggestions, Dave, seems to fulfil a role that sees him act a two-dimensional Boy Who Cried Wolf; he finds some remains in the lagoon – it’s aliens, there’s some odd lights in the sky – it’s aliens. The early indications are that the “lights” may help humans evolve to a higher state, as Mariel’s blood had similar qualities to that of a dolphin or whale.
• As with Lost, the conflict between characters seems to be born of differing ideologies. On one side among the people who have been infiltrated, and elevated, by the lights are Mariel, a doctor whose job promotes clinical scientific advancement, and her husband Sheriff Underlay, whose job casts him in the role of a controller; while against them are protagonist Russell Varon, a park ranger who accordingly is far more inclined to be at home in nature, and his wife Larkin Groves, an inquisitive journalist who represents the seeking of knowledge. Even their names seem to indicate this – Varon is the Spanish word for man or husband (or at least is says so on Wikipedia). And their conflict is a microcosm played out with Mariel and Russell’s children, from their now broken marriage, acting as indicators to imply which side is winning.
What was bad about it?
• It’s hugely derivative, but it does admirably borrow from the palette of the most succulent sci-fi. The discovery of an apparent alien corpse buried in the Evergaldes mirrored the classic Quatermass and the Pit, while the sense that some of the townsfolk had been “possessed” was a nod to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.
• Somewhat less well plagiarised were the creepy Sheriff Tom Underlay, who was a facsimile of Gary Cole’s Sheriff Lucas Buck if the charisma vampires had fed until they were sated, and Rose Varon, who was the archetypal spooky kid with an eerie, instinctive knack of knowing that something isn’t quite right.
• And while, we’re on the matter of nicking inspiration from other sci-fi, some of the characters appellations seem to have been concocted by a dubious names panel headed by Jonathan Ross and Bob Geldof. The worst is Larkin Groves, which is the most ludicrous name since Paul Ironhorse in War of the Worlds.
• The first episode was choc-a-bloc with unnatural dialogue in which people arbitrarily enunciate their relationship to an already seen character as if answering a question on a census. “There’s a huge storm coming and he’s still not home; how was I ever married to this person?”; “The father of my children is out picking acorns.” “You’re not my uncle. You’re my step-mom’s brother!”
• The modern staple of sci-fi – the government cover-up – was present and correct. Unmarked lorries hurtled through town to an unknown destination, as well as sinister soldiers riding roughshod over the laws and principals of America. Such a set-up is usually a pre-cursor to the introduction of Roswell into the plot, the instant this happens (and we hope it doesn’t), resurrect Matthew Hopkins only convince him to persecute sci-fi writers who perpetuate the most boring conspiracy on Earth instead of “witches”.
• As society evolves, so an increasing number of the repellent traits and opinions are ironed out of humanity. This isn’t “political correctness gone mad”, it’s civilisation. So, it’s vexing to be yanked back a few ideological decades in the past week with Richard Littlejohn’s return to the Daily Mail, and the emergence of the vile Friends greeting of “Hey”, just when we thought it had been driven to a deserved extinction.