The Midwich Cuckoos should do well internationally with fans of English television. It’s the most quintessentially English show I’ve seen for ages. It stars English actress Keeley Hawes (Mrs Durrell in The Durrells) and is set in a prosperous suburban town just outside London. Think big brick houses surrounded by green woodland and you’ve got the picture of the fictional town of Midwich.
The 2022 television series is based on a 1957 novel of the same name. The book was written by John Wyndham, author of The Day of the Triffids. Wyndham excelled at coming up with horror scenarios that inserted the sinister into the everyday world. The TV series isn’t set in the 1950s, the action takes place around now. For that reason, the story isn’t quite the same as the novel due to differences in technology and social mores. For a start, the characters have access to genetic testing, abortion and mobile phones.
The story begins when everyone in an area of Midwich passes out at the same time. A few weeks later it’s discovered that all the girls and women of child-bearing age are pregnant. This is a story about aliens and the title is The Midwich Cuckoos, so you can guess what’s happened. The seven-part series follows the mothers and their otherworldly children for several years.
For some strange reason The Midwich Cuckoos hasn’t been widely reviewed in the British media. The few critics who have written about the show have had a mixed reaction to it. For example, Lucy Mangan in the Guardian thought it was pedestrian and wasted a chance to explore women’s rights. Whereas Katie Rosseinsky in the Evening Standard said the suburbs had never been scarier. Writing for The Times, Carol Midgley described the show as “enjoyably freakish” though commented on the unlikely behaviour of some of the characters.
I really enjoyed The Midwich Cuckoos. The children who play the alien cuckoos are brilliant actors and do creepy very well. There is also lots of interesting dialogue between the adults involved. Perhaps, as some critics have hinted, the adults are too accepting of the situation, but with alien mind-control and parental love involved why wouldn’t they be?