As I have admitted previously, I have a fondness for tv shows about UFO’s, the loonier the better. So, when I learned that there was a show called When Aliens Attack airing last night on the National Geographic channel, I was all over that. I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint– it brought the crazy, in exactly the manner I was hoping for.
The premise of the show is a look at what would happen if aliens turned up on Earth, and turned out to be hostile. It claims to be a look at military contingency plans for dealing with an alien invasion, though the “plans” in question seem to be entirely the work of one guy, Travis Taylor, who also gets most of the talking-head time. Other experts involved include actual alien hunter Seth Shostak, whose clips give the strong impression of having been judiciously selected from a lengthy interview spent patiently refuting nonsense; a guy who’s also a fixture of the “Ancient Aliens” series who used to work for the UK Defense Ministry; a biologist who studies ants; and OH JOHN RINGO NO.
The real highlight, though, is the footage “enacting” the invasion, which is cobbled together from news clips about other things (Obama talking about Iraq and Afghanistan, etc.), footage of actors who are probably related to the producers, and really cheap CGI. It’s about the level of a SyFy original movie, but possibly slightly sillier.
The whole invasion scenario follows a plot that is basically what you would expect from a Baen novel: an alien ship turns up in orbit, smaller ships take up position over major cities, all attempts at communication are ignored, and then the aliens start blowing stuff up real good. Conventional military responses are ineffective, but a plucky group of
survivalist whack jobs rugged individualists survive in the wilderness, and carry on a guerilla campaign that eventually drives the aliens off.
This is loaded with all sorts of wacky goodness, like wild inconsistencies in the abilities of the aliens: at one point, they reasonably note that travel at relativistic speeds would require sufficient shielding against micrometeorites and whatnot that the alien ships would likely be impervious to nukes; an hour later, the same giant ships are brought down by small bands of commandoes with small blocks of C4 scavenged from God knows where. they also offer hilariously bizarre hypothetical motivations for the invasion: while they correctly note that aliens wouldn’t need to invade Earth to get water, which is one of the most common substances in the universe, they posit instead that they would come for “chlorophyll and protein.” Yes, that’s right, the aliens came here to eat us, with a nice salad on the side.
(Of course, later on, they note that the aliens might, in fact, be machines only, not biological organisms. The harvesting of trees and livestock is then explained as raw materials for “long-lasting biofuels,” which is right up there with the “Humans are a power source” nonsense in The Matrix.)
And the final assault on the ships, by small teams borne aloft by helium balloons, is an incredibly inspired bit of lunacy.
There are also some queasy-making segments touting the virtues of
survivalist whack jobs rugged individualists touting their manly-man superiority over effete city dwellers, plus a bit about how we would need to breed large numbers of human soldiers to defeat the aliens, and thus all the women among the survivors would need to be pregnant all the time, about which I can only say OH JOHN RINGO NO! (The creepiness of this is muted to the point of becoming amusing by the fact that, from the occasional timeline cards they showed, the whole scenario appears to play out in about a year, considerably less time than it takes to raise a single generation of new warriors.)
So, really, other than the bits with Seth Shostak, who must be an incredibly good sport, and the ant biologist, it’s frothy nonsense from start to finish. It’s great fun, if you’re into this sort of thing.
In reality, of course, most of the premises are just this side of total gibberish. Any civilization that can project an invasion force across interstellar space at slower-than-light speeds isn’t going to need to harvest food from the Earth– if they’ve got the ability to maintain a secure environment and feed themselves for the decades of travel involved, they don’t particularly need anything we have to offer. And “biofuel” is even more ludicrous– if they really need to burn hydrocarbons, there’s an effectively infinite amount of methane at Jupiter, with nobody to defend it.
I suppose it’s slightly more conceivable that some faster-than-light travel technology would allow aliens to send an invasion force without needing generations to get here. But if you’re going to assume the level of woo-woo magic technology needed for FTL travel, all bets are off in terms of other resources, too– they ought to be able to use the nearly infinite energy resources needed to power that sort of thing to produce food from thin air. The idea of a biodiesel-powered FTL drive is just too silly for words.
It is, of course, impossible to speculate about the real motives of alien species, blah, blah, blah. I feel relatively confident, though, asserting that whatever aliens may be after, it won’t map this neatly onto the deranged fantasies of right-wing military-sf authors.
Anyway, as I said, if you enjoy UFO mythology shows that bring the crazy, you’ll probably like this, too. It’s not quite as demented as “Ancient Aliens” at its best, but it’s good, goofy fun all the same.
But it’s not remotely good science.