CORRIDOR OF HORROR
VOL. 7, No. 32
OF PLANET EARTH
Premieres Saturday, Oct. 14, 8-11 p.m.
Hallmark Channel (Cable)
Repeats at 11 p.m.
THEY'RE HERE! THE ALIENS!
GIL BELLOWS FINDS A HATCHERY FOR ALIENS
STILL SEXY AT 45
Forget global warming!
Beware the Alien Bugs!
By RON MILLER
Space ship lands on the moon. Astronauts start drilling core samples. It's the prelude to a major mining operation to begin up there any day now. Only something goes wrong and they have to return to Earth. On the return trip, the flight commander takes a nap. When he wakes up, he's alone on the ship. Like, where did everybody go?
Well, if you presume the Hallmark Channel's new three-hour movie "Final Days of Planet Earth" isn't about global warming after all, you are SO right. What it's about is "War of the Worlds" meets "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" on a picnic blanket some idiot put down on an ant hill.
Can't you hear all those oil-loving dudes in the Bush administration just letting out all the pent-up breath? This isn't a scare job about how crummy our environmental protections have become over the past six years. No, it's just a giant sci-fi thrillfest about extra-terrestrial bugs invading Earth. The Bush folks can handle that. Nuke 'em, right?
Well, hardly. You see, they're laying their eggs under our cities right now. When they hatch, the aliens will be coming out through our own manholes, right among us. Worse yet, they are super-smart bugs who can grab a few humans, run 'em through a secret laboratory and turn THEM into alien bugs. And if that isn't enough to shiver your timbers, they can even do their own version of "Nip & Tuck" and come out looking just like us.
In other words, if that creepy neighbor really bugs you, that may be because he's really a bug with a cosmetic makeover.
Fortunately, a few Earth people find out about the secret invasion and are ticked off enough to try doing something about it. One of them is an archeologist, who turns feisty when the ground collapses where he's doing an archeological dig and all his precious artifacts are swallowed up by the hole. He wants to drop down there and retrieve them, but the "government" quickly cements the whole thing over.
Suspicious, he crawls down a nearby manhole and finds a cavern filled with strange life forms living there in what looks like a nursery for alien hatchlings. He can't get anybody to take him seriously when he starts popping off to the authorities about this, but there's this nosy reporter who seems to listen and there's also the mayor's assistant, a real-attractive lady with long blonde hair who used to be an astronaut.
If you smell a romance brewing in the midst of an alien invasion, you may not be far wrong. Then again, you may not be far right either. The archeologist is played by Gil Bellows, who doesn't look as if he's changed his razor blades since he left the cast of "Ally McBeal," where he played Ally's former boy friend, Billy. He has this "haven't shaved in a week" look that's supposed to add more masculinity to his presence. It doesn't especially work. Bellows is one of those Gig Young types, who doesn't get more macho-looking as he ages, but rather starts looking more like a dissipated ex-playboy.
And since the other half of the budding romance is occupied by the imposing Daryl Hannah, it doesn't seem to have much future. Hannah, still comely at 45, dwarfs Bellows. She looks as if she could throw him over her shoulder with one arm and wouldn't particularly care if he bounced or not. Here's another way of putting it: If Bellows were foolish enough to ask for a night alone in bed with her, I'm guessing all that would be left of him the following morning would be a dried-up husk.
But I don't want to make "Final Days of Planet Earth" sound like some sort of comedy festival. It has its taut and suspenseful moments, especially once the humans decide to bust out of the lab where they're about to be converted to bug juice and start doing a little bug-stomping.
As usual in TV thrillers, the people who wind up defending the human race seem only marginally qualified to pass for humans. For starters, their refuge is a homeless shelter, where it becomes difficult to pick them out from the regular tenants there. One of the "heroes" is a Korean War veteran who still carries around the hand grenade that deflected a bullet half a century ago and saved his life. Korean War? That makes him in his 80s, right? Unless they're talking about the war with North Korea we haven't started yet.
Then there's also an obnoxious salesman that you kind of hope will be Bug Victim No. 1 and there's also that space commander who woke up to find his crew gone. He's been in a padded cell for quite a few years and looks it. And let's not forget the lady who's a doctoral candidate in entomology. She's paying her way through college by working for a pest control firm. Golly, don't you think the aliens would have eradicated pest control people first?
All in all, "Final Days of Planet Earth" is reasonably diverting for three hours. Hallmark cut it down from four hours, which I think was probably a great idea. It's total poppycock, of course, but it's inspiring to watch Americans finally take on an enemy they can handle with sheer firepower. I don't even want to imagine the alternative: Condolezza Rice trying to negotiate a peace settlement with a bunch of giant ants. Well, maybe if we promised them Nevada and a few tons of sugar.
©2006 by Ron Miller. Thge photos are courtesy of the Hallmark Channel. lThis column first posted Oct. 9, 2006.
Ron Miller is a former nationally syndicated television columnist and the author of "Mystery! A Celebration," the official companion book to PBS' "Mystery!" series. He currently writes about television mysteries for MYSTERY SCENE magazine.
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