The Midwich Cuckoos
Something of a passion project for showrunner David Farr, The Midwich Cuckoos, debuting on Sky Max, updates John Wyndham’s 1957 sci-fi chiller to address the anxieties with which it is concerned in a modern setting.
Following the plot outline of the novel, the series focuses on a freak blackout in the quaint English village of Midwich, in which anyone within the village’s perimeter falls inexplicably unconscious. Upon the restoration of the villagers’ whereabouts, all seems to have returned to blissful suburban normality, until a few weeks later, when it is discovered that every girl and woman of childbearing age has fallen pregnant.
Where The Midwich Cuckoos differs from Wyndham’s novel and its previous screen adaptations is in its shift in focus from the authority’s response to the crisis, to the way in which the event affects the interpersonal relationships of the community at large, thereby rather logically turning the mothers into the story’s pivot. In keeping with this trajectory of modernisation, Farr has also changed the character of Gordon Zellaby to Dr Susannah Zellaby, whose reason and motherly grit, portrayed with warmth yet steely conviction by Keeley Hawes, is central to the show’s heart.
As a master of the genre, Wyndham had an innate understanding of the potential of sci-fi to be a transformative means of expressing real and universal anxieties, many of which still present themselves in the collective consciousness to this day. Therefore, any truthful and convincingly performed adaptation of his biting narrative is bound to hold water. What lets The Midwich Cuckoos down to some extent is its televisual texture. Competently directed by Alice Troughton, the first two episodes somewhat telegraph her history as a director exclusive to the medium of British TV. Where you wish for the opening episode to leap off the screen and pull you into its suburban nightmare, it struggles to live up to the cinematic tactility that audiences have come to expect from TV over the last 20 years.
Still, as a story glazed in the tradition of idea-led science-fiction, firmly rooted in the modern world, it is sure to find its audience.
The Midwich Cuckoos is released on Sky Max on 3rd June 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Midwich Cuckoos here: