TV review: The Aliens, E4
A classic Them vs Us scenario is scrawled on a glaringly obvious metaphorical canvas
Some 40 years ago, a UFO crashed off the coast of Britain. This landing was met with excitement and not a little trepidation but huge disappointment followed when the craft’s occupants appeared to be almost exactly like us. None of them were green with oddly-shaped eyes or had special powers or came in peace with messages from the planet they had just departed. Nope, they looked, acted, smelled and spoke just like us: the only differences appeared to be overly sensitive hearing and hallucinogenic body hair which some humans became addicted to sticking in a pipe.
Of course, the aliens couldn’t be allowed to integrate into society and a wall was built to keep them away from us, only allowing them in to do some menial jobs. Don’t worry, this isn’t some Orson Welles-type hoax, it’s 4’s latest ‘Them vs Us (but aren’t they actually more like us than we first thought?)’ drama. If it sounds a lot like The Aliens might be this year’s Humans, then you’re probably right. Lewis (This is England's Michael Socha) works as a border controller fending off nasty aliens and helping cultivate a sense of paranoia among those on the right side of the wall. His life becomes more chaotic when he falls for Lilyhot (Michaela Coel), an alien-criminal whose gang are owed drug money by Lewis’ sister.
A messy kidnapping ensues, eyes are taken out, hands are chopped off and corpses pile up, all the while Lewis is becoming aware that he might be the world’s first human-alien hybrid. Which results in the inevitable daddy hunt. The casting and writing is the archetypal mixed bag. The scathingly sarcastic tone of Lewis becomes extremely tiresome very quickly while Lilyhot’s moody demeanour and backstabbing antics seem tonally more sound. Then again no one has much chance when lines like this are put into actor’s mouths: ‘I don’t make mistakes, I make on-purposes’.
There’s a thin line between making a very timely metaphorical drama and one that lays on its allusions and satirical musings a tad too thick. From almost its opening scene, The Aliens dives headlong into the issues it wants to tackle. The free movement of human beings, Islamophobia, a fear of terrorism and politicians talking about building walls (hi Mr Trump) is barely off the news just now and The Aliens taps right into this (it’s probably not a coincidence that this show’s wall went up in 1990, the year after Germans started knocking down their one). Whether the creators have achieved this subtly or with a sledgehammer is the point where opinions might clash.
The Aliens starts on E4, Tuesday 8 March, 9pm.