The Midwich Cuckoos

The Midwich Cuckoos – a classic sci-fi novel – is adapted for television for the first time as a 7-part drama on Sky Max.

A young couple are packing in something of a panic, looking to each other as if to say ‘are we doing the right thing’? Outside their window, a military jeep drives slowly past. It’s a creepy build up. As they head for their car, suitcases in hand, we see footsteps walking towards them. A creepy child stares blankly and utters “Mummy, what have you done?” What a great start.
All images © Sky UK

Sky Max launch the first television adaptation of the classic John Wyndham novel about the strange goings-on in the town of Midwich. While retaining the disquieting core story of the 1957 sci-fi, it adds some very smart updates for a modern audience.

The elderly male resident Gordon Zellaby of the book becomes a glamorous family therapist, Dr Susannah Zellaby – yet another fantastic performance from Keeley Hawes. We first see her persuading a young girl to leave one of her toys behind despite her worry that’s when bad things happen – oh the foreshadowing. Of course, Doctor Zellaby has her own sullen daughter, Cassie, waiting for her in the living room – establishing the theme of strained family bonds.
Midwich itself is all cricket on the green, manicured lawns, nuclear families – oh and weird unexplained electrical disturbances.
The newspaper cutting framed in the estate agent’s office that boasts “THE TEN BEST PLACES IN BRITAIN TO BRING UP CHILDREN” is a red flag to get out of there as fast as possible. A warning foolishly ignored by Sam Clyde (Ukweli Roach) and Zoe Moran (Aisling Loftus), the young couple who arrive in Midwich in the first episode.
Spoiler warning – stop reading now if you don’t want to know plot: it comes to a head when the power in the market town surges back on and in a brilliantly realised moment, all the villagers one by one collapse, falling to the ground unconscious.
Keeley returning from her date in London finds Midwich blocked off and instructed by the police to head to Warham village hall and wait. Of course she ignores this, walks through the creepy wood only to find the town overrun by people in hazmat suits. And as she runs towards home, she too passes out.
The show works hard to convey the scale of the crisis, making the most of its big moments thanks to Alice Troughton’s skilful direction. Although there is a helicopter scene which seems to have a budget more limited than Max Beesley’s acting range.
The Midwich Cuckoos does draw you in with increasing moments of creepiness and even manages some unexpected surprises like a shock death you won’t have seen coming.
If the idea of Midsomer Murders meets Children of the Corn is up your tree-lined suburban avenue, then the brilliantly-creepy The Midwich Cuckoos is definitely for you. Even fans of the Wyndham novel should be pleasantly surprised.

The Midwich Cuckoos will air on Sky Max and NOW TV from 2 June.