Welcome to Our Village Please Invade Carefully S02 E01 Counter Plot
If I was a tree and you cut me down, then there’d be a whole section of rings that you could identify with the whole geek thing.
The outer rings would be blood and sex tinged from all of the Game Of Thrones shenanigans, with the rings getting progressively less violent and kinky as you move towards the centre.
Moving past the many movies and books, there’s something at the heart that hasn’t got a lot in common with todays’ taste for gritty (and titty) realism.
When you hit the heart of my geek tree, you find…
Most particularly a couple of very different, but very innovative series.
Both famously immortalized in books, although one was books and then radio, the other radio then books.
So I’m talking about the BBC’s adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy”.
Both spellbinding in their own way, both pushed the boundaries way beyond where they’d been before, and between them they set me on the path to the keyboard that I’m typing this on.
They also did something else.
They gave me a habit. (Yes you read that right, that’s habit NOT hobbit).
In my young years, before my hobby turned to dressing scruffily and being avoided by girls, I looked forward to lying in bed at night listening to radio. Not music you understand, but radio series, comedy, science fiction, fantasy.
It’s something that I’ve kept up (sometimes to the chagrin of my other half). These days its online repeats to listen to at my leisure and audiobooks.
Strangely though, I didn’t initially catch the first series of “Welcome to Our Village Please Invade Carefully”, when it was first broadcast. The BBC were pushing it very hard as part of their writers room project , and I think that the rampant advertising for it put me off.
But a few months after it was first broadcast I had a spare credit on my audiobook service and decided I had nothing to lose.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Not astonishingly surprised mind you, it isn’t roll around on the floor clutching at your spasming muscles funny, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Because there’s a problem with radio science fiction comedy. Something casts a long shadow. A big towel shaped shadow. Forty-Two Towel shaped shadows. Forty-Two Towel shaped, Two- Headed- Three-Armed, Paranoid Android, Gold-Hearted, Tea-Drinking…. Look. You get the picture….
Hitch Hiker was so innovative, clever and funny, that anything daring to sit in the same launch area is going to have to either go in a completely different direction or be VERY funny, clever and innovative indeed, in order not to have an electronic guide shoved where the black holes don’t emit light….
In this case WTOVPIC , goes down a different spiral arm of the galaxy, in fact it doesn’t leave Earth at all , in fact it doesn’t leave middle England.
The premise is a familiar one. So familiar in fact that I have to wonder who first came up with this one, if this is copyrighted out there, there is a big windfall on the way.
It’s the old ‘Aliens cut off a community from the rest of the world by using an invisible force field, as a prelude to a full scale invasion’ routine. In the last few years we’ve had “The Simpsons Movie” (Yes I know its not Aliens but the premise is pretty similar) and Stephen King’s “Under the Dome”.
In the case of WTOVPIC, the locals of the village have been cut off from the rest of the world, by the insidious Field Commander Uljabaan of the Geonin.
Uljabaan arrived in the village months before, in the guise of the long lost lord of the manor, then cut off the village and supressed the memories of everyone else outside so that they wouldn’t miss it.
So the villagers are stuck inside Uljabaan’s invasion study experiment, whilst he observes how the humans will react to the full scale invasion.
So in reality we have what all of these types of stories are, a cypher for the ‘Outsider looking In’ observational comedy type.
In series One we had Julian Rhind-Tutt as Uljabaan, facing off to the villagers including the Lyon family of Peter Davison (Yes, the Doctor Who one), Jan Francis and Hattie Morahan, with a supporting cast of other trapped villagers.
Being British and not wanting to make too much of a fuss, village life continues pretty much as normal, with Uljabaan observing and commenting on the absurdities of normal life, and hatching the occasional plot to further his invasion timetable.
On the Alien side, we also have the hyper intelligent Computer (and not so intelligent but much more obnoxious Printer), who is exasperated by his masters’ behaviour and a troop of alien minions called... “Minions”.
On the human side, there is Katrina Lyons , grown up daughter of Richard and Margaret, who was only in the village visiting her parents when it was sealed off , and Lucy Alexander, teen rebel and often spliffed-up co –conspirator of Katrina , and …..
Well that’s it, only Lucy and Katrina really seem to be agitating against the invaders, with everyone else resigned to their fate and being terribly British about it all.
So the comedy comes from the culture clash of the staid villagers, the efforts of the two-girl resistance, and the schemes of the invader.
As I mentioned, it’s not laugh out loud comedy, and many would find it a bit too BBC middle-class cosy for their liking.
In the first episode of the new series, Uljabaan ( now Charlie Edwards as Julian Rhind- Tutt is unavailable) , catches the resistance girls trying to tunnel their way out under the force field from the village allotments, and sentences them to manual labour for one of his projects. That project being to dig up the allotments that he has commandeered for a mystery purpose.
This unauthorised acquisition of the allotments incenses their owners and a mob of saboteurs is born.
This should give you an idea of the tone, is a sort of ‘John Wyndhams’ The Vicar Of Dibley’
But speaking of tones, one thing that should be toned down is the laugh track. It’s an oddity really, for something that is recorded in front of an audience, why the need for a laugh track and why so loud. Its almost as if there was some dominant force telling you when and how to behave?
So as I say, this isn’t for everyone. It might be worth your while for something a little different from all of the blood and appendages of modern geekdom.
One curiosity regarding this series is that it came from the BBC’s search for new comedy script writers, and the script is available on line to read as a .pdf. So even if you don’t like the show , you can take a look at the layout and structure of a BBC script. You can find it here
Of course if you don’t like it then there’s always the option of stepping out of the force-field and having your mind wiped….