by Billie Doux
[Originally published on N:Zone in 2002]
"All your memories and all your fears..."
Taken is an incredibly ambitious miniseries. It is immense in scope, thought-provoking, complex, moving, and genuinely scary. (Quite surprising, coming from a network that just cancelled Farscape in favor of Tremors.) Presented by Steven Spielberg, written by Leslie Bohem, with ten different directors for each two-hour segment, Taken covers over fifty years of life in America with one major focus -- alien abduction is real.
The story begins with World War II foo fighters, the Roswell crash, and the flying saucer sightings in the fifties, and takes us right up to the present day. The writer and producers took just about every major alien myth -- government cover-ups, Area 51, cerebral implants, medical experiments, mysterious pregnancies, crop circles, little grey men with big eyes, the whole enchilada -- and tied it all together into one cohesive story. The fact that the story was so recognizable and familiar made it all the more effective.
One reason I think Taken works so well is the story is about people. The action revolves around three specific families and their complex relationships with aliens through three generations. We get to know each family, and we care about them; particularly the multi-generational abductees in the Keys family, who suffer terribly from their experiences but never stop fighting back; the Clarkes, who have more intimate and positive experiences with the aliens; and the Crawfords, the villains of the piece, who are deeply involved with government investigations and cover-ups from the very beginning.
All of the lead actors are believable and at their best, compelling. Most notable are Joel Gretsch as the genuinely scary Colonel Owen Crawford; Heather Donahue as his equally creepy granddaughter Mary; the marvelous Matt Frewer as a sarcastic, cradle-robbing mad scientist; Desmond Harrington as the haunted Jesse Keys (this guy yanked my heart out); and an extremely talented little girl named Dakota Fanning as Allie, who is the focus of the final five episodes as well as the narrator of the entire miniseries.
One of the major pitfalls of science fiction shows is that the story ends up being about the special effects. This most certainly did not happen here; in fact, the special effects were so good, so seamless, so much an integral part of the story that I didn't even think about them. Very impressive.
I can't say too much more without ruining the story for you, but I strongly recommend Taken. I was enthralled; it's definitely worth the time. Especially if you tape it and fast forward through the interminable commercials.
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