Thursday, October 06, 2005

TV Review: Invasion, Episode # 3: "Watershed"

The general consensus on Invasion so far - as near as I can determine - is that people like the program in general but that it is, well, a bit slow-paced. The actors are all very good, the production values are fine, but the show...drags.

I kinda agree with that assessment, though I've learned (through my love of British television like Sapphire & Steel, Space:1999, Doctor Who, UFO and Blake's 7) that often it just takes a little time for the viewer to accept the pace of the series and re-modulate to it. I think that process began to happen for me last night. The hour passed quickly, and I didn't nod off or get disinterested.

So what's new on the alien invasion front in Homestead, FL this week? Well...Dr. Underlay can't give blood to her wounded son because, we learn, there's something not quite right with her blood. That was a logical development given her "encounter", and I'm glad the episode didn't try to dance around it. I got nervous as soon as I saw the good doctor making a blood donation and getting ready for the transfusion. I kept thinking, "Are they really going to contaminate her son? So soon?) They got around this by having him reject the blood and nearly die.

Then there was the mystery of those air force trucks, and what they're actually doing/what secret they are protecting. Their cover story (about a chemical spill down in the Florida Keys) didn't ring true, as the viewer learned quickly, and so we become aware that something else is going on. And hey, let's have a shout-out for guest star Armin Shimerman. He played Quark on DS9 and Principal Skinner on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it's terrific to see him in action in the genreagain. Someone make him a regular, quick.

All in all, the aforementioned plot developments are just tiny points in the big narrative, but ones worth noting. I still think Invasion is less cliched and stupid than Threshold, and a bit less popcorny than Surface, which, admittedly, I'm enjoying very much. Surface is still better-paced, somehow. I think back to Shaun Cassidy's previous genre series, American Gothic, and I didn't have any pacing issues with that, but it was a different ball game. There, Gary Cole's evil Sheriff was plain, old-fashioned, demonic (but charming...) evil and everybody in town knew it. Here, the town is still in the dark about the mysterious plot unfolding, so the Sheriff and other "possessed" folks can't get away with such overt activity. Yet.

I still have several outstanding questions about the characters in Invasion and the precise nature of their "alienation," but - unlike many TV series - I feel there's a steady hand and a real plan behind all of this, and that we are just being doled out goodies one-at-a-time. Thankfully, Invasion has been garnering some high ratings (particularly in the key 18-49 demographic), so the show won't be going anywhere any time soon unless viewers drop away.

Will viewers hang around in large numbers for a slow-paced, slow-boiling mystery? I certainly hope so. What about you? Are you still watching? And I wonder, how do you rank the three "alien" shows this fall?

For me, it's Invasion first, then Surface, with Threshold bringing up the rear, but I understand that a lot of lonely Star Trekkers are tuning into Threshold in large numbers and calling it one their faves. To give the devil it's due, I guess it is the most fast-paced and action-packed of the bunch. At a poll on recently, Invasion also finished last in popularity, and Threshold won out.

Guess I'm just out-of-step or something...but at my advanced age of 35, I prefer a little humanity to go with my sci-fi. Somehow, covert agents with puffy collagen-enhanced lips running around in high heels brandishing guns and going after super strong aliens just doesn't float my boat like it did when I was sixteen...

I'm sticking with Invasion.

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