Dark Skies: The Movie Review

Colin Polonowski has reviewed the Region 2 DVD release of Dark Skies: The Movie

The X Files has a lot to answer for. Until the series launched in 1992, conspiracy theorists were in the minority – yes, there was always someone bleating on about Government cover-ups, but when the X Files launched it was suddenly the ‘in’ thing to believe that conspiracy within the upper echelons was a common occurrence.
Of course, the popularity of Mulder and Scully’s antics and their crusade against alien invasion was bound to spawn plenty of similar TV series. Some succeeded, others failed and Dark Skies fits into the latter camp – not because it was a bad series (far from it in fact), but because the American audiences were poor.

The makers of Dark Skies had some grand ambitions – starting in the 1960s, they planned to make the series span the remaining four decades of the Twentieth Century intertwining actual events with the mythology of the show. The first and only series took place during the sixties and brought together many of the events of the period – central to the plot was the assassination of JFK and its repercussions.

The plot really focuses on the secret Majestic 12 (MJ12) organization set up by the US Government to investigate the UFO phenomena. John Loengard (Close) starts a new job in Washington – a job that brings him into contact with MJ12 and the events they are trying to keep from the general public. Overnight, his view of the world is turned upside down – but instead of bowing to their wishes, John decides to take them on and to discover exactly what has been hidden from view.

All of the familiar ingredients are present – alien abductions, crop circles and mysterious double agents. While it’s obvious what Dark Skies influences are, there’s still a lot to keep you guessing and unlike The X Files which has it’s own highly developed but less believable mythology, Dark Skies attempts to keep things much more focused by tying itself down to just one paranormal activity and bringing it closer to actual events.

UFO enthusiasts will be delighted to see some popular names cropping up – just a few minutes into the episodes here and we meet Betty and Barney Hill, the first ‘real’ alien abductees. It’s small things like this that give the series a sense of reality regardless of the subject matter.

This Danish DVD release contains the pilot episode for the series. This feature-length episode sets the scene for the subsequent series, but doesn’t get overly complicated – this was one of the problems later on when it became almost impossible for anyone to join start watching if they hadn’t been following the increasingly convoluted story arc.

All in all, Dark Skies was a very good television series. It’s easy to see why the studio got cold feet – it would have been near impossible for the series to increase its viewing figures as it progressed due to the nature of the plot. The pilot episode stands alone well, but some of the intricacies that made the programme a joy to watch are obviously either not developed here, or not present at all.

As mentioned in passing above, this DVD contains the pilot episode. The actual title is ‘Dark Skies: The Movie’ – although this is a bit of a misnomer.
Technically, the disc is little more than adequate. The picture quality in particular is nothing to write home about – it’s almost sub-broadcast quality. The main problem is that the picture is very soft throughout – there’s also evidence of some minor digital smearing. A lot of this can be put down to the source material available – the TV origins are all too apparent. Dark scenes lack definition and there’s a definite lack of contrast.

The sound is the original Dolby Surround track that accompanied the series when it was first broadcast. Once again, given the television origins this isn’t the most dynamic track you’ll ever here – there’s no real dynamic range and surround effects are kept to a bear minimum. Thankfully however, the dialogue is very clear and this is probably near enough a spot on copy of the original.

In terms of extra content, the disc is a little lacking. Thankfully, other than a few copyright screens the on-screen text is in English. There are a few grammatical/spelling issues but nothing worth complaining too much about. The extras themselves consist of a few pages of static text focusing more on the characters than anything else and four trailers – one for Dark Skies, and three others for Albino Alligator, Criminal Intent and Drive.

Given the origins of the disc, there are a few things to note – the packaging is entirely in Danish. The menu gives you the option to choose from four languages – Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian. Subtitles are on by default, but they’re not permanent and can be turned of with the remote control.

All in all, this is a fairly average disc of an above average series. There’s little chance of us seeing the remaining episodes, but this is better than nothing. You can pick up this Region 2 Danish disc from a number of Denmark-based DVD retailers (I used http://www.dvdproshop.com) – however, although the disc itself is pretty cheap the postage will set you back a fair bit – I ended up paying just short of £20.

Colin Polonowski

Updated: Feb 27, 1999

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