Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Dark Skies on DVD

Thanks to an advance copy of this DVD set from Shout Factory I am able to give you a review of the TV series Dark Skies.
The 1990’s was a decade of change for television. Programs that the big 3 networks normally wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole in earlier decades were now making their way to the broadcast airwaves. One of the biggest and most enlightening of the decade, broadcast on NBC from 1996 to 1997, was Dark Skies. Fact and fiction merged as it told the history of the United States of America from 1947 to the present. Well at least they would have gotten to the present if it was allowed to run longer. The fact that just a single season of the series aired at all on a major network was and still is to this day a major accomplishment.
It starts in the early sixties. Young John Loengard and his girlfriend Kim Sayers arrive in Washington DC. He has a job as a Congressional aide and she gets one working in Jackie Kennedy’s office. Together they find out the truth about what happened that involved the UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico. Since then aliens have been involved in every major and even some minor events of our country and the rest of the world. John becomes involved with a secret government organization that is battling the alien takeover but in a belief that everyone should know the truth he quits and now he and Kim are on the run from them as well as the aliens known as the Hive. No one can be trusted as the Hive have deep undercover operatives everywhere.
This is one of the best sci-fi conspiracy shows that ever aired. The two hour pilot episode alone is worth the price of the DVD set. It was directed by veteran film director Tobe Hooper and released as a movie in the foreign market.
Eric Close and Megan Ward do a great job playing our heroes John and Kim but the standout performances are from J.T. Walsh as Frank Bach and Tim Kelleher as Jim Steele. This is one of the last performances by J.T. Walsh and may be his best job ever. Frank Bach is the head of the secret organization named Majestic that is fighting the aliens and trying to keep the public and most government officials in the dark about the invasion. He and Loengard are always at odds with each other. The scenes with them together are some of the best. They may be enemies but they respect each other on how they battle the aliens and sometime even help each other out.
Tim Kelleher as Jim Steele has one of the thankless roles in the series. He is the main alien who has taken over the body of a Majestic agent. This character is put through the ringer with losing sight in one eye, needing to change his identity from time to time, always getting captured and then escaping. I doubt he thought this was the direction his character would take during the run of the show. But Kelleher handled it well and proved to be an actor’s actor.
One thing this series is well known to science fiction fans for, even those who have never even seen one episode of the series, is the introduction of actress Jeri Ryan to television audiences. Her first appearance comes in the episode titled “The Warren Omission.” It is an introduction to a character that you won’t forget. She comes in kicking and knocks an agent, Kim and John to the ground and warns him what will happen if he tells the truth.
Another thing that I loved about this series was taking events and people of the time and working them in to the story. The aliens were responsible for everything from the murder of JFK to the Watts riots. Characters of that era that play parts in the series range from Robert Kennedy and John Lennon to Jim Morrison and Carl Sagan. James F. Kelly plays Robert Kennedy so well you would almost think he really was Robert Kennedy. He’s on so many episodes he should have been given star billing with the others.
The extras in this set are wonderful. There is the two hour pilot that is shown the way it was overseas. There are interviews with the stars and the creators Bryce Zabel and Brent V. Friedman. One of the selling points of the series was, not knowing if the series was based on fact or fiction. During the interview with the creators they told something that blew my mind and made me wonder again if it was real or not. I’m not going to tell you what that is because I want you to buy this DVD set and see for yourself.
The sad thing is that the series was canceled too early. We will never see how the Hive ties in with Watergate, Iran-Contra or the Gulf Crisis. There was an attempt for renewal to bring the series up to 1997 in season two but it didn’t save the series. In my opinion this is one of the great science fiction series. Any science fiction fan needs to add this to their DVD collection. It took guts for NBC to air even a single season. It took a long time to get the series to DVD due to musical licenses for the songs in the series. Shout factory took the risk and the series is here with all of the music. Don’t let them regret producing it on DVD. Buy it so more series of this quality will be release for us to enjoy.
Look for it in your local store on January 18. Even better you can order it now at Shout Factory.

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