Intruders, BBC America’s new supernatural drama premiering this weekend, is a series that defies easy categorization. The first episode alone combines the elements of crime procedurals, conspiracy theories and relationship dramas as missing spouses, assassins and a deeply unsettling nine-year-old girl who isn’t what she seems fight for your attention — and that’s before the show’s big ideas about life after death come into play.
If that sounds like something that would scare you away from tuning in, it shouldn’t. The show, adapted from Michael Marshall Smith’s 2007 novel The Intruders, is compellingly complicated, smart television that should appeal to fans of The Walking Dead, The Strain and The Leftovers. And, anyway: we can tell you the five things you need to know about the show ahead of time.
It’s Made By The People Behind Your Favorite Things
What happens when the executive producers from Doctor Who hire one of the writers from The X-Files to co-create a television show with the director of The Blair Witch Project? This very show. Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter, who ushered in a new generation of Whovians with the 2005 revival of Doctor Who are the women behind Intruders, with Glen Morgan (The X-Files, Millennium and the sense to walk away from NBC’s ill-fated Bionic Woman reboot of a few years ago) adapting the original novel. The Blair Witch Project’s Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Stamm, director of The Last Exorcism, split directing duties for the eight episode. Impressively, there are times in which it feels like the sum of all of those parts.
The Cast Is Amazing
Morgan told Playboy that the quality of the acting influences the writing of the series’ later episodes. “You write the first four episodes, and then there’s a break and you get to see John Simm and this 10-year-old kid, Millie Brown, and they’re just extraordinary,” he says. “You realize that you’d like to see a scene between Millie’s character and James Frain’s character, but there’s not one in the book. And so, because of that, we kind of veered [from the source material] a little bit.”
The show is filled with familiar faces, including Life on Mars’ Simm and Mira Sorvino, but it’s definitely the 10-year-old Brown who’ll take your breath away. Morgan called her discovery “without question, the luckiest thing that’s happened in my career,” and it’s easy to see why. As Morgan puts it, “You have a character where you’re asking a 9-year-old kid to play Joe Pesci, a 63-year-old man. Usually, it’s the other way around: Tom Hanks can play himself as a kid. But rarely, you find a kid who can play a serial killer.” Brown makes it look easy (and appropriately terrifying).
The Show Contains Multitudes
Morgan was given the novel by Gardner, and found himself surprised by its variety. “It had every genre that I liked,” Morgan remembers. “It had a little Raymond Chandler, it had a little Exorcist, a little Holden, it had some of the Pakula movies from the ‘70s — Klute and The Parallax View — these very paranoid, separate stories that you knew were going to converge but you didn’t know when or how.” He couldn’t resist the challenge of trying to translate that to the screen. “I read it the same night I got it and was like, Can I do this?”
The show continues the theme of referencing its forerunners, at times recalling the queasiness of latter Twin Peaks, and with a scene in the first episode that simultaneously recalls Richard Sarafian’s 1971 classic Vanishing Point and Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. The show doesn’t feel like a collection of “best of” moments from other things, but for those looking for something well aware of what’s come before, this is exactly what you want.
The Show Is Genre Fiction For Today’s World
“I don’t think I’m smart enough to say, this is what’s going on in the world, but I think it’s interesting there are several of these shows dealing with an afterlife right now,” Morgan says about Intruders’ surprising relevance to the current televisual zeitgeist (In addition to Invaders, there’re also ABC’s Resurrection and A&E’s remake of French drama The Returned. The aforementioned HBO drama The Leftovers could conceivably be thrown in here, as well). “It’s almost like we’ve passed the apocalyptic situation of The Walking Dead, and realized that we’re not going to survive that either and wonder, what’s next?”
While he denies that he approached the material looking to make any political statement, Intruders’ version of what happens after death suggests the afterlife — like our current day-to-day existence — is controlled by those with the most money. “That we did consciously,” he admits. “There’s a feeling in the States, and also around the world, that the one percent have the game rigged.”
It Promises Not to Take the Easy Way Out
Intruders revels in asking questions and then avoiding delivering anything close to an easy answer. “When I wrote the pilot and the second script, Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter would say, ‘Oh, I really like this, what is going on here?’” Morgan says. “Then we’d take those scripts to the network, and they’d be ‘What’s going on here?’ but it was never ‘This is a mess, I don’t care about the next thing.’ Everyone always wanted to know what the next thing was.”
The writer plans to repay that curiosity as the series continues. “I know we can answer questions and continue that interest as we build in future episodes,” he says. “There’s a lot more story to tell.”
Intruders premieres this Saturday at 10pm on BBC America.