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Alien Invasions and Body Snatchers

on Mon, 07/30/2012 - 00:00

The 1950s are often considered the Golden Age of Science Fiction. It was also a time period where Hollywood and the movie-going public became fascinated with space travel and alien life forms. Many sci-fi classics were produced during the era, including The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet and War of the Worlds. Although these films have influenced future generations of science fiction creations, the 1956 big screen endeavor Invasion of the Body Snatchers appears to have had a significant impact on alien-themed television shows that appeared decades later, including the FOX series The X-Files and TNT drama Falling Skies. Each of those creations features a plot by hostile aliens to not only invade the Earth but enslave mankind by mutating the human body into a different life form, much like within the film itself.

During Invasion of the Body Snatchers, local doctor Miles Bennell slowly discovers that the population of his small California enclave has been replaced with imposters who, although they look identical to their originals, are devoid of any emotion. “Less than a month ago, Santa Mira was like any other town,” it is later explained. “People with nothing but problems. Then out of the sky came a solution. Seeds, drifting through space for years, took root in a farmer’s field. From the seeds came pods, which have the power to reproduce themselves in the exact likeness of any form of life. Your new bodies are growing in there, taking you over cell by cell, atom for atom. There’s no pain. Suddenly while you’re asleep, they’ll absorb your minds, your memories, and you’re reborn into an untroubled world.”

While Invasion of the Body Snatchers is as much a commentary on the dangers of conformity and loss of a person’s individuality—themes that were prevalent during the time period of the 1950s—as it is a sci-fi classic, The X-Files contains a darker scenario for a pending alien invasion that would likewise erase human existence and replace it with a new life form. Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The X-Files is also a product of its time, as a government conspiracy surrounding the existence of aliens and a secret group of older white males that have been assisting with their invasion plans reflects the growing distrust in government that was on the rise during the 1990s. Despite the differing cultural settings, however, the same horrific future of mankind exists in both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The X-Files.

“Your little green men arrived here millions of years ago,” FBI Agent Fox Mulder is told during The X-Files: Fight the Future, the big screen film that served as a bridge between the fifth and sixth seasons of the television series. “Those that didn’t leave have been lying dormant underground since the last ice age in the form of an evolved pathogen, waiting to be reconstituted by the alien race when it comes to colonize the planet, using us as hosts. Against this we have no defense, nothing but a weak vaccine. We believed the virus would simply control us, that mass infection would make us a slave race. Imagine our surprise when they began to gestate.” Thus while the alien pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers would leave the planet with a new life form that reflected the existing human population, the future on The X-Files would eradicate mankind’s existence even further by making the human body nothing more than an embryo for an entirely difference species.

Although The X-Files contains a narrative that leads to a potential alien occupation and Invasion of the Body Snatchers features the initial stages of such an incursion, Falling Skies is set in a world in which the alien invasion has already occurred. The TNT drama follows a small group of survivors that are both searching for safety while likewise attempting to fight back in the aftermath, but the same agenda holds true for the aliens of all three science fiction creations. On Falling Skies, the alien “skitters”—named after their spider-like bodies—kidnap human children and outfit them with a spinal harness that turns them into mindless slaves. When main protagonist Tom Mason rescues his son Ben, however, resident doctor Anne Glass notices hardened skin around the area on which the harness had previously been fastened to Ben’s back. An autopsy on a dead skitter later leads to the discovery that the skitters contain the same harness and that the device apparently transforms one species into an entirely different one, much like the seeds on Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the black oil pathogen from The X-Files.

The revelation also means that humans are not the first race from which the aliens have attempted to snatch bodies. It is also revealed that on both The X-Files and Falling Skies that previously enslaved species are likewise fighting back in their own form of a resistance movement. For The X-Files, these renegade extraterrestrials are referred to as “faceless aliens,” as they have sealed the various orifices of their bodies in order to avoid infection by the alien virus. On Falling Skies, meanwhile, they are the skitters themselves. “Strange as it may seem to you, my planet was much like yours once,” one of them tells Tom Mason. “We lived in relative peace and tranquility. Then they came and they wasted everything we hold dear. We were pressed into slavery, made to do their bidding. The Khelmoch was infused in our spines as children, the same way they had us do yours. We tried to fight back but they were too powerful. And then we came here and we saw you. Even after you were almost wiped out, you refused to capitulate.”

Unfortunately Miles Bennell didn’t have the same luxury of having potential resistance allies in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. “I’ve been afraid a lot of times in my life, but I didn’t know the real meaning of fear until I had kissed Becky,” he says after the last remaining resident of Santa Mira has been transformed. “A moment’s sleep and the girl I loved was an inhuman enemy bent on my destruction. That moment’s sleep was death to Becky’ soul, just as it had been for Jack and Teddy and Dan Kauffman and all the rest. Their bodies were now hosts harboring an alien form of life, a cosmic form, which to survive must take over every human man. So I ran. My only hope was to get away from Santa Mira, to get to the highway, to warn others of what was happening.”

Much like Miles Bennell, Fox Mulder spent numerous years of his life trying to warn others of the pending danger and was met with the same psychological derision that awaited Bennell, while Tom Mason’s attempts at convincing his fellow survivors that the skitters are potential allies likewise falls on deaf ears. Miles Bennell, Fox Mulder and Tom Mason, however, are the last believers in the fight for mankind’s future—a fight that is ultimately against an invasion of body snatchers.

Anthony Letizia (July 30, 2012)

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