The second part of Dominic Sandbrook’s ambitious overview of science fiction deals with everything from Daleks and Quatermass to Godzilla and The X-Files, with contributions from many luminaries. Beginning and ending on Horsfell Common – the scene of the Martian landing in Wells’ The War of the Worlds – Sandbrook investigates secret alien invasions, the effects of nuclear power, dinosaurs, peaceful and less peaceful contact with aliens, concluding with a look at some of the “aliens among us” tales.
Among those providing their opinions are directors John Landis – who talks about The Thing From Another World, Ray Harryhausen’s work, the original Godzilla movie and Jurassic Park, as well as District 9 – and John Carpenter, who discusses The War of the Worlds as well as The Thing. Some of the commentators are obvious choices – Doug Trumbull on Close Encounters, Phil Tippett on Jurassic Park – while we also hear from Anthony Daniels on Quatermass, and Nicholas Meyer on War of the Worlds. Other interviewees talking about their own work include Roland Emmerich on Independence Day (although there’s no mention at all from him or Sandbrook of that film’s huge debt to Kenneth Johnson’s V), Ed Solomon discussing Men in Black, and Peter Coyote (Keys) on E.T.
Contemporary news reports sit alongside clips from the programmes and films – Quatermass gets clips from the TV rather than Hammer versions; The X-Files section features footage of Ollie North giving testimony. The Doctor Who element got quite a bit of play in the trailer, but in fact it’s short and sweet – David Tennant giving kudos to Raymond Cuisick, and praise for the Dalek concept from Steven Moffat and Karen Gillan.
Verdict: Although it sometimes feels as if it’s expanding its “invasion” remit a bit too far (is Alien Nation really an invasion?), and thus isn’t quite as strong as the first episode, this is still a fascinating hour. 8/10