“My name is John Loengard. I’m recording this because we might not live through the night. They’re here, they’re hostile and there are powerful people who don’t want you to know. History as we know it is a lie…”
That voice-over opens most episodes of Dark Skies, a television series that ran for a single season on NBC between 1996 and 1997. Yet despite lasting merely one season, it remains unique more than fifteen years after its finale. That is thanks to a combination of things that made the series both unique and ahead of its time.
The basis of the show is a large factor in its uniqueness. Covering the years between 1960 and 1967, Dark Skies features a strong combination of 1960s history and UFO lore. Over the course of the series we learn that following events at Roswell in 1947, a shadowy government agency called Majestic 12 began to fight a covert war with an extraterritorial intelligence bent on invasion called The Hive. As a result of that conflict, events including the U-2 incident and the JFK assassination have played a part in that conflict.
The series reveals this though John Loengard (played by Eric Close). He starts out as a young congressional staffer and ends up at the conflict’s front line alongside his White House staffer girlfriend Kim Sayers (played by Megan Ward). The two of them together sell the reality of the series as two young people caught up in extraordinary events which bring them together and yet threaten to tear them apart. Leading Majestic is Captain Frank Bach, played expertly by J.T. Walsh who sells the reality of events by bringing a sense of authority to both Majestic and Bach. Through them and a strong supporting cast including Conor O’Farrell as Bach’s right hand man and Jerri Ryan’s Majestic agent in later episodes or alongside real-life figures such as Robert Kennedy (played by James F. Kelly), we’re given a window into this shadowy alternate history.
The period setting of the early to mid-1960s is also a big part of the show. Alongside the impressive sets for Majestic’s headquarters with excellent period details and 1960s technology, the show features excellent costumes and recreations of period settings. These range from Washington to Cape Kennedy, Vietnam and across much of the United States. As a result, the series presents a large range of different locations and stories covering the Cuban missile crisis, the civil rights movement, the space race amongst others it’s no wonder then that some have called the series “Mad Men for the Close Encounters set.”
Despite lasting a single season, Dark Skies remains a fantastic series. Its combination of 1960s history, period setting with its trappings and the use of UFO lore continue to make it unique while it also features strong actors and good performances that make the most use of those elements. It’s a series that ended before its time and worthy of a look today.
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