"My name is John Loengard. I`m recording this because we may not live through the night. They`re here, they`re hostile, and powerful people don`t want you to know about it. History as we know it is a lie ......"
One of the unfortunate things about American television at the moment is that the intelligent, quirky genre series get cancelled after their first season and the thuddingly dull ones just keep staggering on.
Strange Luck is gone; Space: Above and Beyond has vanished, Alien Nation lay dormant for a few years before being picked up as an intermittent series of TV movies and Kindred: The Embraced is no more, but Sliders, Highlander and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues just keep on rolling.
Of all the series to have had the plug abruptly pulled, Dark Skies is the one whose memory will last the longest and whose passing will be regretted the most.
A reasonably ambitious experiment in popular television, it promised to tell the secret history of America from 1948 to the present day and beyond, culminating in a final episode taking place in real time on New Year`s Eve, 1999. Like most big promises, it turned out not to be true. The series was recently cancelled and, despite attempts to revive it on another channel, it looks as if we have seen the last of it. <which we know has finally happened>.
The high production costs required for "period" drama (special costumes, classic cars and difficult-to-obtain set decorations, as well as the necessity of making outside locations look as they did many years ago), when added to the low audience the series was achieving in the US, guaranteed its demise. The episodes also had an unfortunate tendency to resemble each other - a general problem with ongoing conspiracy thrillers - and that didn`t help build audience loyalty. All fans of the series are left with is the slightly sour taste of what might have been.
Bryce Zabel, co-creator and co-executive producer of the series, is a former TV journalist who worked on genre series such as Lois and Clark, and Mantis, while James D Parriott (the other executive producer) is the man behind the vampire cop series Forever Knight.
Zabel`s background comes across in the almost documentary feel some of the events in the series, and it`s probably a fair bet that some of the more grotesque moments (usually involving aliens creatures squirming into, and out of , mouths) can be laid firmly at Mr Parriott`s door. Zabel and other co-creator Brent V Friedman also wrote or story-lined many of the episodes themselves - a necessity when dealing with a series whose background is so complicated and self-referential.
Dark Skies starts in 1961 with young, idealistic John Loengard (Eric Close) and his girlfriend Kimberley Sayers (Megan Ward) arriving in Washington DC. A wave of optimism is sweeping America 0 JOhn F Kennedy is in the White House and it seems as if anything is possible. Unfortunately, it is. While Kimberly takes a job working for the Kennedy administration, JOhn acts as a gopher got a Congressman. Sent on a pointless mission to investigate UFO sightings. Loengard is attacked by mysterious age who steal what little evidence he has managed to amass and threaten to kill him if he investigates further. He does, of course - it would have been a short series otherwise - and he soon discovers that the man in charge of these agents is a military officer, one Captain Frank Bach (J T Walsh).
After a series of confrontations, Walsh takes Loengard at least partially into his confidence. There is an alien invasion going on, and Bach is in charge of a secret Government organisation known as Majestic-12, dedicated to stopping the aliens in their tracks.
Loengard is recruited into Majestic-12, and together he and Bach discover the situation is a lot more complicated than they had at first believed. The Greys 0 bald, wrinkly aliens who are abducting various humans from around the world - are acting under the control of other aliens known as the Hive; parasites who enter bodies through the mouth and take up residence in the brain.
We, as the old Blue Oyster Cult record has it, will become like they are (the series constantly uses popular music rock music of the time to comment on the action). Kimberley is taken over in this way, as is Agent Steele (Tim Kellner), one of Majestic`s personnel. Kimberley is rescued, but later falls under the influence of the aliens again, while Agent Steele dies once or twice and loses an eye but keeps on going, acting as nemesis to the unholy alliance of Loengard and Bach.
Despite Leongard`s distrust of Bach`s secretive and heavy-handed methods, he works with him in order to recover both Kimberly and the son she has borne him but given to the Hive. Buried alien ships, cows giving birth to humans, crop circles ....... it`s all tied together by one huge web of conspiracy. The complicating factor is Juliet Stuart (Jeri Lynn Ryan) - an agent working for Majestic`s Soviet equivalent with whom Loengard starts an affair.
The first season culminates in 1967 with
Frank Bach`s murder at the hands of his trusted deputy and the
revelation that an object the size of Mars is heading towards the
Earth and will arrive on New Year`s Eve, 1999. Keep watching the
As well as the directly plot-relevant appearances by influential historical figures such as Robert Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger and J Edgar Hoover, Dark Skies also features guest appearances by Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and Charles Manson, the Beatles and Jim Morrison (of the Doors), a soldier named Colin Powell (who, we presume, will later feature heavily in history during the Gulf War), astronomer Carl Sagan and acid-visionary Timothy Leary.
It`s been argued that most American fiction is about the relationship between a son and his father, and Dark Skies is no exception. Despite their disagreements Bach takes a personal interest in Leongard`s welfare, actively protecting his life on numerous occasions, while Loengard finds it difficult to disappoint Bach and keeps coming back to him, no matter how often he tries to escape.
The two men want the same thing - the destruction of the Hive - but have opposite ways of achieving it, and that is what gives the series its emotional core. Bach is a powerful behind-the-scenes manipulator, while Loengard wants to go public with everything, but each of them is the only person that the other one can really talk to. They are bound together by ties closer than blood. To drive the point home, Loengard returns to see his father in one episode but ends up screwing things up and returning to Bach - his surrogate father - again.
It`s hard to see how Dark Skies could have developed between now and 2000. Within the ambit of one season it had covered most of the staple elements of alien conspiracy and degenerated into a straight chase series, with Loengard defeating this week`s invasion plan, confronting Agent Steele and Kimberly and then having to explain to Frank Bach how he lost them again. It had potential, however, and that`s more can be said for many of the series that have outlived it.
Episode 1 - The Awakening
John Loengard is assigned to investigate Project Blue Book. He meets a couple who tell him of a close encounter. Later, he is confronted by a group of men who warn him to stop his investigation. John turns his attention to the group and their leader. This leads him to Frank Bach, the Majestic-12 orgainisation and the truth about aliens. John joins Majestic, and they capture a farmer implanted with an alien. Majestic realize the Grays are part of a larger organism called the Hive. Kim is abducted and implanted by the Grays. John finds that not even Kennedy knows of the aliens, John tries to save Kim and tell Kennedy of the threat.
Episode 2 - Moving Targets
John and Kim try to retrieve the alien artifact for Robert Kennedy. Jesse Marcel tells John about the Roswell incident. Later, Majestic capture Jessie. John and Kim spot Jim Steele and follow him to jack Ruby`s club. They discover that Steele is Hive. Implanting Ruby, Steele orders him to assassinate Oswald. Majestic finally capture John. Bach tells him the truth about Roswell.
Episode 3 - Mercury Rising
Kim and John go to Cape Kennedy to find the cause of her dreams about an astronaut. Kim spots the astronauts. Ty Young, who tells them about the experience he had in Space the night Kim was abducted. The couple visit a doctor who uses hypnotic regression to take Kim back to the night of the abduction. As the next space mission is about to lift off, the couple realise that the Grays have implanted Ty`s partner with a Ganglion and plan to sabotage the mission.
Episode 4 - Dark Days Night
As Majestic investigate why some people are being rejected as implantees by the Hive, John and Kim investigate an alien transmission who leads them to new York. There they discover that the Hive are using subliminal messages to find all previous abductee `throwbacks` and get them to kill themselves. The Hive plan to sue the upcoming Beatles broadcast to do this. John and Kim form an uneasy alliance with majestic in order to stop the mass suicide. Meanwhile Jim Steele catches up with the couple. Episode 5 - Dreamland John and Kim head towards Las vegas where they hope to earn some money. They cash in a few chips at a casino, unaware that the chips are marked by the owner. Howard Hughes. He mistakenly believes that communists are operating in the area. Realising it is a Hive operation, John and Kim agree to help Howard in stopping them, but do not tell him the truth. As the scale of the Hive operation is revealed, (they are attempting to dig a tunnel to a secret base in Area 51), John realises they need help. Kim is captured by the Hive and faces implication once again.
Episode 6 - Inhuman Nature
john and kim meet with robert kennedy. investigating cattle mutilations, they examine one of the cows with strange markings on its side. they find a healthy, living young child in an extra stomach inside the cow, grown by the hive for implantation. the couple agree to hide the child from the hive, but majestic want the child as well.
Episode 7 - Ancient Future
in alaska john and kim meet an old man who tells them a story about a star that fell from the sky, and of a being who told his ancestors to guard the star. the star is a hive ship, and the being a gray who has managed to escape implantation. an earthquake follows, revealing the hive ship. majestic want to retrieve the ship. john touches the ship and sees a future where the hive win.
Episode 8 - Hostile Convergence
after a newspaper report of a ufo sighting by a police officer in new mexico, john meets with jesse marcel. the duo investigate the officer's story. they discover what seems to be plans for a ufo. meanwhile, kim and John's relationship shows signs of strain and she leaves him temporarily to go to her sister`s wedding. however, the bridegroom is not who he appears to be ...
episode 9 - We Shall Overcome
when three civil rights workers disappear in mississippi, john and kim find the hive are at work. mark, a friend of john`s, tells him of strange happenings at a local black church and a ufo that he saw. while john and mark pose as fbi agents, kim discovers a hive breeding ground. meanwhile, majestic are in a race against time with the fbi to get to mississippi and confront the hive.
episode 10 - The Last Wave
when a friend of john and kim`s dies, they return to la for the funeral but are surprised when they find the body had been taken by strange men. they examine the mysterious circumstances of his death. coming across fish jumping out of the water is not a usual occurrence and with the help of a young jim morrison, they investigate a local sewage plant which they discover to be hive controlled, and a hive plot to alter the human body chemical.
episode 11 - The Enemy Within
john goes to his parents to get some money, and gets a cool reception from hs brother and father. they want to know why he and kim are on the run. ray, john`s brother, begins to act suspiciously to john, and john realises that he may be infected with a ganglion. before they can perform an art, john is taken to a psychiatric hospital. meanwhile, jim steele breaks into majestic to retrieve some documents.
episode 12 - The warren Omission
robert kennedy convinces john that he should testify at the warren commission into jfk`s death. in response, bach sends juliet, majestic`s newest addition to the group, to give john a `friendly` warning. this does not deter him and he still testifies. what follows is actin, counter-action and blackmail, as both kennedy and bach attempt to gain the upper hand.
episode 13 - White rabbit
john in captured by bach, who forces him to go with him to vietnam to retrieve a downed alien ship. however, with the ship virtually disintegrated, it is decided the ship should be completely destroyed. during the mission john and bach are captured b the viet cong, and they only have hours to live as bach has called an air strike ...
episode 14 - Shades of Gray
john and kim, again working for majestic, try to capture a hive ship by luring it with a fake crop circle. the plan partially works - the ship escapes, but abandons a gray. a lonely girl befriends the gray and works with it to stop john and kim. the duo discover the hive plan to brainwash earth`s children. juliet recalls her own encounter with the hive as a child, and kim receives some shocking news.
episode 15 - Burn, Baby, Burn
kim, heavily pregnant, is flown to a california hospital where she will be looked after by a majestic doctor. meanwhile the captured gray has fallen into a coma. as the watts riots begin, kim is abducted again. john, assisted by a fellow abductee`s husband and juliet, sets out to locate kim.
episode 16 - Both Sides Now
john and juliet go to berkeley, california to investigate student protests at the vietnam war. they stumble upon a number of altered gas canisters, and majestic realises the hive plan to turn the public against the war effort which helps fund majestic. steele tries to turn kim into a full hive member.
episode 17 - To Prey in Darkness
footage of the 1947 roswell incident is stolen. juliet and john investigate, and find the footage has been passed to dorothy kilgallen. when she is killed it seems the hive want the film too. the race is on to stop a tv broadcast of the film. john and juliet find they are attracted to one another.
episode 18 - Strangers in the Night
majestic receive a distress call from aura-z, their russian equivalent. they are under attack. a commando team lead by major colin powell heads into aura-z`s hq are chernobyl to find out what has happened. it seems the hq has bee overrun by alien-implanted prisoners. back at majestic hq, dr carl sagan joins the fight against the hive.
episode 19 - Bloodlines
dr sagan decodes part of a hive transmission. john comes into contact with a new hive drug and sees the hive mother ship and his son. after the experience, he stages his own abduction to get on board the ship. however, there is no easy way back to earth. back at majestic hq, bach realises there is a traitor within the organisation ....