CAPSULE COMMENT: An unseen Alien force has conquered the earth (to save us from ourselves or maybe not – two seasons in and that still isn’t clear) and has installed a fascist-style government called the Transitional Authority to oversee things. Otherwise, it’s confusion, fear and chaos and central to all this is the Bowman family, who are doing whatever they can to stay united amongst the ever-changing currents of what has now become ‘normal’ life. The creators say the series in not actually about an alien invasion at all, but rather it is an exploration of authoritarian governance. So what is the point of the aliens, flying robots, space ships and mysterious people pods? Colony is a series that does not seem to know where it’s going or what it’s doing, but I am hanging in there (by a thread) because I love sci-fi and dystopian themes.
What has happened to planet Earth? No one seems to know except that a little while back it was taken over by a mysterious and largely unseen alien force that erected big walls around cities all over the world, cutting them off from each other, and as it transpires, they were the lucky ones. And as is revealed later, many more people were obliterated than saved.
Apparently it was to protect humanity from itself, bringing an end to war and violence and environmental degradation. There are curfews in place and the survivors are getting around on pushbikes while living on tight rations that don’t include luxuries like coffee, and no one seems to know anything except that the ‘Hosts’ (who may or may not be raptor-like beings, which accounts for their nickname ‘The Raps’) are in orbit above the planet and are not to be feared if you are behaving yourself.
On the ground the ‘Host’-appointed human administrators known as ‘Transitional Authority’ keep order through a policing force called ‘Homeland Security’ (this latter title is an interesting choice indeed, and gives some less than subtle clues to the metaphors at play here). These folk get it a little easier than the rest, living in well-appointed homes with access to the best of everything including food. Otherwise, there are strange whiney robot drones flying about eliminating anyone acting in defiance of the rules.
Our hero is former army specialist Will Bowman (Josh Holloway – you might remember him from Lost) who is reluctantly recruited into Homeland Security and tasked with tracking down the ‘resistance’, or as the Transitional Authority prefers to call them, ‘terrorists’. He is only doing it because he is searching for his displaced son and needs the kind of information he can only get from the inside.
His wife is seeking other means to the same end and has joined the resistance. Katie Bowman (Sarah Anne Wayne Callies – The Walking Dead) is slightly out of her depth and is frantically trying to keep her head above water dancing a dangerous waltz with rebels and the governing forces. Her biggest problem is her naivety, which is seriously compromising her husband.
On almost every level this show seems to be a conspiracy metaphor for the post-9/11 world, suggesting governments have become corrupted by the mass surveillance technology they are using to fight destabilising forces. Instead of using it to protect the citizenry, they are using it to control them and protect the interests of an elite group of powerful people. Season One done and Colony is solid rather than special, but I am counting on that to change as more detail is realised.
Season Two has mostly drifted by without the revealing details I had been hoping for. The Transitional Authority has turned into a compilation of fascist clichés, there is something about the ‘greatest day’ (a profound event which is more than likely a cover for a planned genocide designed to finish the remainder of humanity), the Bowman’s have consolidated and are in hiding and we still have no idea about these alien visitors though we now know that they are ferrying selected humans into space in pods for reasons unknown. There are also hints that our alien overlords might not be as united in their ‘human’ mission as was supposed.
Otherwise, all kinds of argy bargy is at play in the walled section of Los Angeles where the series is focused. Endless power-jostling within the upper echelons of the Transitional Authority, various rebel groups doing terrorist things, and then there is a hunt for a valuable piece of stolen ‘Rap’ technology which can control the enforcement drones.
As for the attrition rate amongst the cast, this tells us something about the battles going on behind the scenes as faltering plot lines are cut and new ones are spliced into play. Yes, it’s messy and incohesive, suggesting lots of scrabbling about as the mechanics try to get the engine to run right.
The creators say the show is not actually about an alien invasion at all; it is an exploration of the politics of authoritarianism through the eyes of an otherwise innocent family caught up in events beyond their control. Okay. So then, why all the alien business? Maybe this series is being written for the very long term, like say Season Five where it will all be revealed and everything will suddenly fall into place. Maybe there are deeper metaphors at work and I am too blind to see. I don’t know anymore, but I am still hanging in there (by a thread) because I love sci-fi and dystopian themes.
* The Internet and ‘TV on Demand’ has revolutionised the way we watch TV shows. No longer beholden to television networks and their programming whims and scheduling, we can watch back-to-back episodes of new and old shows to our heart’s content without those annoying advertisements interrupting the narrative flow. TV viewing has suddenly become more accessible, democratic and a hell of a lot more fun. ANDREW JOHNSTONE scours the available channels and finds the best of the best, so you don’t have to.