AAs any parent will tell you, there are often times – usually around meals and bedtime – when you look into the faces of your children and see not innocent people passing through clouds of glory, but compelling offspring parasites merrily exhausting you from every resource you have. These moments tend to pass …
Unless you live in a certain English village in Winshire called Midwich. Then, dear ones, you are blocked.
Sky’s new seven-part drama The Midwich Cuckoos (Sky Max) is the latest adaptation (by David Farr, who did the same with John le Carré’s highly acclaimed The Night Manager) of John Wyndham’s ever-popular sci-fi story in 1957. Even if you haven’t read the book, or seen the equally famous 1960s movie Village of the Damned (the one with all the scary identical kids that would be even scarier if the blonde wigs weren’t so … vicious) or John’s Carpenter. 1995 take it, or heard one of the many radio adaptations, you probably absorbed the basics by osmosis.
Farr’s version does not deviate from the original premise, to the detriment of the project, but let’s not go ahead. One ordinary day in ordinary Midwich, there is a crackling of electrical commotion, the traffic lights are a bit strange and citizens suddenly become unconscious. Anyone trying to enter the village is also getting dark, as the police and Home Office find out when their investigators and helicopters all fall like flies.
Life becomes less ordinary even when the residents wake up 12 hours later and find that every woman of childbearing age is pregnant. There’s a lot of laying hands on bellies and looking up in amazement at the sky as expressions of incredulous joy creep slowly through faces, instead of a more believable mass panic. That’s when you know you’re in an eight-hour traditional rate rather than any dizzying innovation, and so it proves.
Reactions remain absurdly silent. Newcomers to the village of Zoë (Aisling Loftus) and Tom (Ukweli Roach) are delighted that Zoë is pregnant, having been told that they were infertile. Jodie (Lara Rossi doing her best with a character whose entire description, I’d bet, consisted of the word “feisty”), sister-in-law of local police chief Paul (Max Beesley – “stoic” to him), is less thrilled. Young Cassie (Synnøve Karlsen), who has an apparent mental health and possibly addiction problems, is immediately pro-baby, however it got there. Her mother, child psychologist Susannah Zellaby (Keeley Hawes), thinks, you know, there might be some wrinkles coming up in this whole mass unexplained pregnancy affair.
It is. The handful of women who go for ends have their minds controlled and leave. Everyone resigns not being able to leave Midwich. When babies are born, they grow faster than normal and soon begin to exhibit what no one near them seems to feel terrifying tele-kum-psychopathic behaviors.
With Samuel West as the Blurry Government Figure, it becomes clear that there is also a sinister backstory, but since that is even flatter than the forest, it doesn’t need to stop us.
The new adaptation did not know that it would appear after news that Roe v Wade and the right to abortion were about to be overthrown in the United States. But it has certainly been done in a world where women’s rights are under attack, where the invasion of extraterrestrial forces of one kind or another – from viruses to tyrannical leaders suddenly unleashes hell on their neighbors – and the question of how we protect and share dwindling resources. is. once in our minds. Making such a walking version of Wyndham’s book, instead of using its powerful premise as a springboard for deep dives into motherhood, female autonomy or experience, or some of the other avenues it opens up, feels like a very wasted opportunity.
Sex exchange the Zellaby character barely makes up for it. Relying on the mood of Handmaid’s Tale or using the production to examine some other dystopian vision would not disgrace the book; there is a lot of change under Wyndham’s superficially “acceptable” story that could justify much darker catches than the “comfortable catastrophist” (as Wyndham was dismissed by Brian Aldiss) is now known for. As it is, we are left with no more than adequately told, an already known story dragged on for at least two hours longer than necessary while using about 10% of the talent its actors have to offer. Damn.