Flashback: The Uninvited

Anglia TVA 1997 science fiction series from Anglia Television dealing with photographer Steven Blake’s investigation into a road accident that leads to questions about the survivors of the village of Sweet Hope – a medium rural village that collapsed into the sea.

As Blake investigates further into the survivors and their rise to power he suspects a cover up of secret weapons testing but the survivors are holding a darker secret than that and soon Blake’s world is turned upside down and the end of humanity seems very near indeed.

When photographer Steven Blake witnesses a horrific car accident involving a well known scientist he visits the wife of the deceased to pay his respects but is shocked to see the husband alive and well. As Blake begins to dig deeper into the accident he comes across Chief Superintendent Gates who is head of special police unit and also a survivor of Sweet Hope – a village that disappeared into the sea several years before in an accident. Blake’s investigations into the Sweet Hope connection lead him to discover that most of the survivors of the village have since gone on to gain positions of power – Blake suspects a conspiracy and cover up. Aided in his investigations by ex-wife Joanna, Doctor Sarah Alexander and Gates’ ex-wife, Melissa, Blake soon discovers that truth about Sweet Hope, it’s survivors and their plans are far more sinister than he could ever have imagined.

The Uninvited is a 1997 science fiction series produced for ITV by Anglia Television and therefore mostly filmed in and around Norwich. It was created by actor Leslie Grantham who is still known for his role of Dirty Den in EastEnders. Grantham was no stranger to the world of science fiction though having previously appeared in an 1984 episode of Doctor Who. As well as creating the series initial concept Grantham was one of the producers on the series alongside Ruth Boswell who had produced the well received 1970s science fiction series Timeslip – which had dealt with time travel and issues of cloning, global warming and the rise of dangerous technologies years before they became topical in the eyes of the public.

Rather predictably the series was compared to the X-Files as it dealt with conspiracy theories, alien take over’s and Government departments trying to hide the truth from those investigation them. The Uninvited also did feature a male/female partnership between photographer Steven Blake and Melissa Gates as they team up to discover the truth but in an interesting reversal of the X-Files set up with Scully and Mulder it is the woman who is the believer and the man who is, at first, sceptical. In the X-Files the situation is reversed with Mulder the believer in alien life and Scully the septic who slowly comes around to the idea.

Of course the X-Files ran for a considerable time and so Scully’s conversion to believing in the various conspiracies could take place over a longer period of time where as The Uninvited was just four episodes so Blake’s initial disbelief as Melissa’s theories are quickly turned around. If the producers were drawing on the X-Files for inspiration then they couldn’t help but notice fans desires for Mulder and Scully to ‘get it on’ and become more than just working partners – which is exactly what happens with Melissa and Blake during the course of the four-part drama.

In the 1990’s the home computer was slowly beginning to become a common feature in homes but it had yet to really take off as the rise of the internet was still a few years away – the real rise of the internet that is. A subplot of The Uninvited involved one of the survivors of Sweet Hope and their software company which Blake discovers deliberately has faults contained within it and programming which would allow someone to take over the major operations of the world via the software. Such ideas of backdoors in software to allow others to take-over are now quite common with the “reimaged” Battlestar Galactica using such an idea during its 2003 mini-series. But at the time as home computers weren’t so common it was an interesting concept to include as part of the overall take over plan by the aliens.

During the course of the four 50 minute episodes very little itself is actually revealed about the aliens and what they are. In the final episode its stated that were originally came from Earth millions of years ago but left due to changes in the planet’s atmosphere. However, the rise of global warming and pollution had made conditions suitable for their return – a warning about the effects man-made technology is having on our planet, something explored in Boswell’s previous serial Timeslip as mentioned. Through means unstated the aliens are able to take on the physical appearance of someone and take their memories but only once they are dead. What the creatures actually look like themselves isn’t shown but they are probably humanoid in some form. They are telepathic and are able to communicate other great distances and perhaps share an overall linked conscience. When one of them is hurt or killed the others are aware of this and suffer violent nosebleeds as a result. Their plans for the planet are simple – to take it back. They plan to raise the amount of radioactive material in the atmosphere to make the planet more suitable for them but less so for humanity – who they want to “help” on their way.

As stated above a lot of filming was done in Norfolk with some location shooting taking place at the University of East Anglia and the officers of the Eastern Daily Press – for scenes involving Steven Blake and his ex-wife Joanna who is the editor of a national newspaper. Filming took place for eight weeks in Norwich and the Norfolk coast. Cast in the role of Steven Blake was Douglas Hodge with Lia Williams cast as Melissa Gates. Grantham played Chief Superintendent Phillip Gates – Melissa’s ex husband and one of the senior aliens on Earth. Sylvestra Le Touzel was cast as Joanna Bell who despite being Steven’s ex-wife he turns too when he needs help and her resources. Joanna puts her job and life on the line for Steven and despite her concerns over his and Melissa’s theories eventually believes him and pays the price for it. Caroline Lee Johnson played Doctor Sarah Alexander who Melissa and Blake turn to for prove that Gates is an alien and how to kill him. Oliver Ford Davies played a scientist whose views got in the way of the aliens and so he was replaced with a copy and Michael Cochrane played the head alien on Earth and someone obviously very high up in the British government – showing how far the aliens had been able to infiltrate Earth’s society. Other actors featuring in the four-part series include veteran actress Jean Anderson known for her role in Tenko, Helen Fraser, Ian Brimble, Gillian Barge, Eamon Boland and David Allister.

The Uninvited aired as four 45 minute episodes and a novelisation was also released. It was written by Paul Cornell who had contributed towards the Virgin novel range of new Doctor Who adventures following the shows cancellation in 1989. Due to Carnell’s connection to the world of Doctor Who he included a scene in the novel which featured a cameo from Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, a recurring character within the world of Doctor Who. The Brigadier was the head of a secret military organisation tasked with protecting the Earth from various alien invasions. Although the character isn’t named as such in the novel it is clearly meant to be him.

The Uninvited has been released on DVD though in a slightly different format to that in which it aired. Instead of four 45 minute episodes the DVD contains 2 X 120 minute episodes for unknown reasons.

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