The Midwich Cuckoos review: Keeley Hawes stars in a slow-motion sci-fi drama that is going nowhere fast

It occurred to me this week, while watching Sky’s new sci-fi remake The Midwich Cuckoos (Sky Max, Thurs, 9pm) that if you banned directors from using slow motion, TV dramas would be around 25 per cent shorter.

By Philip Cunnington
Friday, 3rd June 2022, 5:00 pm

This new adaptation of John Wyndham’s mid-century classic tale was pretty quick to use it. People walking, horses trotting, people falling to the floor – all of it done in slow-motion.

This tale of alien encounters and children with mind control powers should have been an exercise in the uncanny, or creeping dread. Instead, it was more like an Agatha Christie mystery, with the slow-mo standing in for any atmosphere building.

In fact, even a below-average episode of Inside No.9 packs more emotional heft, chills and general feelings of weirdness into half an hour than The Midwich Cuckoos did in 70 minutes.

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Keeley Hawes stars in Sky's The Midwich Cuckoos

The basic premise is that the village of Midwich is one night afflicted by strange electric pulses and static blasts interrupting that night’s episode of Corrie.

By the end of the evening, a fizzing lightning strike hits, and everyone inside a certain radius of the village blacks out, waking up 12 hours later none-too-refreshed – and, in the case of the women, pregnant.

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It should have points to make about women’s role in society, the choices between motherhood, career and love, the lack of control women have over their bodies, but even though it’s set in the present day, it seems such a traditional take you suspect it doesn’t have anything new to say at all.

The alien children from Sky's new adaptation of John Wyndham's classic science fiction novel, The Midwich Cuckoos

Despite a decent cast, led by Keeley Hawes, and well-known source material, this is a drama that is going nowhere fast.

Similarly alien – to me at least – is the concept behind dating show Five Dates a Week (Channel 4, Sun/Mon, 9pm). A single person is sent to live in a house with five potential love matches, from which he or she must pick. The first episode was a tortuous hour with an incredibly annoying voiceover. It’s one I’ll leave to the youngsters.

More familiar sci-fi continued this week, as Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+, new episodes Wednesdays) returned, this time to the small screen. Ewan McGregor lends some star presence as the Jedi of the title, and it’s all very charming and beautifully made, if not really new or ground-breaking.