In the world of E4’s new drama The Aliens, thousands of crash-landed aliens are forced to live in a lawless ghetto called Troy. It’s a metaphor almost as clunky as the nitwitted gags that jar against the socially-conscious point it tries to make about our modern dilemmas over racism and immigration.
Thrown into the midst of this unpleasant business is Michael Socha’s dim-witted border guard Lewis, who can barely hide his disdain for the ‘Morks’ he’s tasked to keep in check. Naturally, poor Lewis’ prejudices come back to bite in a big way when he learns he is half-alien, a discovery that launches him on a madcap adventure with smitten co-worker Dominic (Peep Show’s Jim Howick).
Coming from In The Flesh writer Fintan Ryan, you might hope for a similarly bold piece of social commentary from this six-part series. Alas, while it raises some sage points about how outsiders are not always so different from ourselves (these aliens look just like humans – only with hair that doubles as a highly-prized narcotic), the tone is too tongue-in-cheek. The jaunty kidnap plot whizzes by in a blur of explosions, shootings, chases and stabbings, but the constant (and I mean constant) japes and wisecracks give it a throwaway feel like the stakes don’t really matter.
But at least this weird blend of sci-fi thriller and daft caper gives us the chance to see some compelling performances, particularly Michaela Coel’s enigmatic alien gangster Lilyhot, whose hard-edged attitude perfectly dovetails with Socha’s puppyish everyman shtick. It’s just a shame they weren’t given stronger material.
Click here to watch The Aliens on All 4