A host of problems on this family-drama-meets-alien-invasion series

What’s The Show? Colony

What’s It All About, JG? At some point in the near future, Earth is invaded by largely-unseen aliens, referred to as “hosts”, who have taken over the planet for nefarious but obscure reasons. After their arrival, cities are completely enclosed in via massive metallic “walls”, turning them into the “colonies” of the title. Our story starts in LA, where a cookie-cutter family have cookie-cutter rebellions against cookie-cutter collaborators in cookie-cutter situations. There are quislings, rebels, people just trying to get on with their lives who get swept up in events… you know, the kind of thing that lots of dystopian near-future fiction tend to go in for. Who will live? Who will die? Who will care? That’s the trick with these kinds of stories – there are so many dystopian near-future TV shows, movies and books that they all kind of blur into one, so to make yours stand out you really need some memorable characters to anchor familiar plot beats around.

Why Did You Give It A Go? It sounded like a vaguely intriguing premise, and though there’s no shortage of works covering similar territory, the mystery of the “hosts” suggested there might be some fruitful material to engage with that was little more outside the usual beats of this kind of genre.

Is It Any Good? Not really – for the most part it’s kind of dull, in fact. There are some interesting ideas on display here, and though there’s too much “cosy catastrophe” going on during the first season – where the impact of a vast, planet-conquering invasion appears to be everyone living in a standard-issue fascist state – there’s a few twists and turns that keep things moving. The hosts themselves aren’t revealed in any way until almost the end of the first season, but their mystery is spun out fairly effectively. After that, the second season dips badly – there’s a lot of wheel-spinning, a bit of stolen tech everyone need to pursue becomes a bog-standard McGuffun, and there’s lots of beats you’ve seen elsewhere (at one point there’s a terrorist/freedom fighter blowing up of a police training camp that appears to be a direct steal lift from the New Caprica arc on Battlestar Galactica). The third season tries to shake things up by abandoning the LA setting, spending a few episodes in a cut-price version of The Walking Dead but without zombies, and eventually makes it to Seattle, to little effect. The show itself is relatively well produced, given it’s apparently modest budget, but where it falls down badly is in the central family. Josh Holloway isn’t bad as Will Bowman, the head of the family, and Sarah Wayne Callies isn’t bad as his wife, but they rarely ever seem to be acting in the same show. There’s just absolutely no sense of them as a husband and wife, and their marital differences towards the end of Season Three just highlight how little chemistry there was between them in the first place, since it’s hard to even tell that there’s any difference in how they behave towards each other. Alex Neustaedter, as their teenage son Bram, is actively bad in what is an admittedly thankless role, and the two younger children are just impossible to care about. The lack of coherence and investment in our point-of-view characters is the biggest sin Colony commits, though again this feels wasteful because elsewhere there’s a couple of good performances that really do help knit the show together. The reliably great Peter Jacobson is terrific as the sleazy, scheming Snyner who’ll do anything to survive and keep his position of power, and though Tory Kittles is doing a knock-off Denzel Washington performance it works well for the show and he’s an extremely watchable presence. Both deserve to be in something a bit more interesting than this.

How Many Episodes Did You Watch? Most of them? I probably skipped one or two here and there, but if I did it didn’t make any real difference.

Would You Recommend It? No. From a fairly engaging premise and early success this ends up being a waste of potential – fans of dystopian science fiction can fine better fare than this, even better TV genre fare. The problem with Colony is, ultimately, that it’s all rather boring. Not completely and not always, and there are moments where it’s able to generate drama, but the show never finds a way to do it consistently and that’s the problem. There’s a real sense of “when are we going to get to the fireworks factory?” and ultimately we never do. It sounds like there’s lots of exciting stuff happening over there but we spend two and a half seasons messing about in a rebels-and-collaborators story that could have come from any World War II drama of the past sixty years and by the time we do start to get any revelations it’s just too late to care. Colony hasn’t been renewed for a forth season, and it’s hard to view it as much of a loss.

Scores On The Doors? 5/10

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