Based on Ray Bradbury’s story Zero Hour (which was recently adapted by Brian Sibley for Radio 4’s Dangerous Visions version of The Illustrated Man), this new series from Amblin television manages to retain the creepy elements of the original short story while adding in a lot of familiar Spielberg tropes. As well as a very disturbing game that’s being played by the “invisible friend”, Drill – who or whatever that may be – we’ve got families connected by infidelity and children who know more about what the adults are up to than their parents would like; and we’ve got Dee Wallace, although this time she’s the grandmother rather than the mother of the child who’s in contact with the… whatever it is.
There’s also a Mysterious Stranger™ hanging around the scene of the bad things caused by Drill and the children, and it comes as no surprise by the end of this first episode to discover that he’s actually closely linked to the others involved. It seems that somehow he has managed to escape from his plane that disappeared in the Arctic but was found gripped by a strange object in the desert… (Yes it is as odd as it sounds…)
The parts of the plot deriving from Bradbury are at present much stronger than the bolted-on elements: Mysterious Stranger talks a language he doesn’t actually know when he’s unconscious, then escapes from the hospital; the FBI agent isn’t just grieving, she’s trying to cope with her son who has to learn sign language to communicate following an illness three years earlier – but you can almost guess up front how the episode is going to end when Drill makes contact with him…
There’s more than enough in this first episode to pull audiences back for more with Lily Rabe and the rest of the adult cast having to bring their A game, given how good the younger actors are – Kylie Rogers and Abby Ryder Fortson (pictured) in particular will send shivers up your spine.
Verdict: A very promising start. 8/10