TV Review: ‘The Intruders’

Intruders BBC America TV Review

Very “X-Files”-ish in tone (and featuring some prominent alums of that show among its producers), “The Intruders” is another moody, macabre drama that proves too stingy about disgorging its secrets. Adapted from Michael Marshall Smith’s novel, the series involves, as the press notes explain, “a secret society devoted to chasing immortality by seeking refuge in the bodies of others,” without really making clear the rules through two rather violent episodes. Fans of the genre might be more patient about where this serialized story is heading, but those confined to one lifetime should think twice before potentially squandering some of it on this.

Set in the Pacific Northwest, this British production has most of its cast adopting Yank accents, presumably for the practical purpose of securing Canadian tax credits. Developed by Glen Morgan (and counting his brother Darin, another “X-Files” veteran, among its producers), the series stars John Simm (the original “Life on Mars”) as Jack Whelan, a former cop turned author whose wife (Mira Sorvino) goes missing, leading him toward this twisted world of the Qui Reverti, who essentially recycle themselves by occupying the forms of others.

“Toward” is the operative word here, since after a couple of episodes, Jack seems not much closer to ascertaining what the hell’s happening, despite a friend (“True Detective’s” Tory Kittles) who points him in the direction of a suspicious dual homicide. That leads to a parallel plot featuring James Frain as an implacable killer, piling up victims as he seeks a little girl (Millie Brown) who has apparently become host to one of the intruders, and represents a threat — for reasons that remain vague — to the rest of them.

Admittedly, other BBC America imports in this vein, among them “Orphan Black,” have also been slow to peel back their mysteries, but at least that offered the pleasure of Tatiana Maslany’s performance to carry through the early going.
“The Intruders,” by contrast, somewhat handcuffs its cast, while concocting an eerie atmosphere of things that go bump — and in Frain’s case, bang-bang-bang — in the night, especially in terms of Brown’s increasingly precocious tyke.

As adapted by Morgan and Eduardo Sanchez (who wrote and directed, respectively, the first four of the eight episodes), “The Intruders” owes a thematic debt to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The show also benefits from “The Walking Dead” composer Bear McCreary’s ominous score, which contributes mightily to conjuring a sense of dread.

None of that, however, provides a strong enough incentive to stick with the show, based on these initial hours. And while there’s clearly an audience for such fare — and BBC America will provide the show with a nice springboard, premiering behind sci-fi staple “Doctor Who” — there’s just not enough life in the concept thus far to prevent “The Intruders,” like its namesake, from hiding in plain sight.

TV Review: 'The Intruders'

(Series; BBC America, Sat. Aug. 23, 10 p.m.)


Filmed in Vancouver by 1213 Prods. in association with BBC Worldwide Prods.


Executive producers, Glen Morgan, Jane Tranter, Julie Gardner, Rose Lam; director, Eduardo Sanchez; writer, Glen Morgan; based on the novel by Michael Marshall Smith; camera, Philip Linzey; production designer, Mark Freeborn; editor, Jim Coblentz; music, Bear McCreary; casting, Junie Lowry Johnson, Libby Goldstein. 60 MIN.


John Simm, Mira Sorvino, James Frain, Millie Brown, Tory Kittles

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  1. Wilma says:

    I just watched the first episode last night and I have mixed feelings. I like a story that slowly enfolds it’s plot and secrets and I like all the mysterious elements (I loved The Leftovers and True Detectives). There is enough intrigue and mystery to make me curious to see more. BUT I felt the creepy mood created by the cinematography and music was a bit contrived and unnecessary — the spooky elements should speak for themselves without all the embellishment. Also I agree that the cat-drowning scene was overly disturbing as well as the little girl being somehow abused by having this monster occupying her body. I can take a a certain amount of graphic violence on screen but I draw the line when it comes to animals and children. After the cat scene I felt I didn’t want to watch the series but I find myself wondering all the same so we’ll see.

  2. Rick says:

    A LOT of what I loved about “Millennium” without all that annoying series creator (and network?) kibitzing. I like it. It’s WAY too slow. That is a JUST criticism, but one has to wonder if that constraint is inflicted on it by the novel from which it’s adapted. If the Morgan Brothers are involved, I’m in. They like good (vintage) audio gear, oblique non-tangential plot point connections and unusually have consistently incorporated unfailingly GOOD music in their TV writing. (Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke? Well done, sirs…..) That might have been in the original novel as well, but they did a great job of making it “fit”. I’m hoping it’s successful if for no other reason than to get American Entertainment media encouragement to take risks on adventurous writing. Those guys, Wong and Gilligan were a BIG part of what made the X-Files “tick”.

  3. Jane says:

    I watched the 1st three episodes back to back on demand. While I did not believe that this show was phenomenal, it kept my attention and I was curious to watch the 4th episode. I’m glad I still don’t know what’s going on completely. That’s what makes a long lasting show/season to these thrillers. I like it when you learn bits & pieces from a characters past. Explain everything the first couple of episodes and I probably would not return. This is not some movie where everything has to be explained by the end of the hour. I will say I did not like the scene where just out of nowhere the little girl drowned her cat.

  4. lynn says:

    I saw the description and thought I would give the show a shot. I can say I have not read the books so I came in completely blind. After watching the first show, I am still feeling completely in the dark. It was definitely fast paced, but maybe a prelude would have been helpful.

  5. David says:

    @ Jim K: Early fan of Spooky and Dana here. I watched the first two eps of “Intruders,” and what kept coming to mind was, where are we going with this? Should I be caring about this journey? Am I being too impatient and should I give this more of my time to see where it goes?…then I realized, those are questions I shouldn’t really be asking myself…they stem from the fact that the show appears too cryptic for it’s own good….and the tag line “what goes around comes around” has become worn due to the use in the promos…I appreciate it when storytellers take chances, but also hope they peel the curtain back enough to draw me in…this didn’t do it

  6. Barbara says:

    I was watching the 1st episode of the new program, The Intruders, last night. Towards the end of the show, a horrifying scene was played out where a young girl violently drowns her pet cat in the bathtub. I am getting so tired of these cheap shock tactics used by writers/directors with limited imaginations. It is unacceptable and revolting. I will not be watching this program again. I wonder how many copycat killings will be taking place as a result?

  7. Jim Coblentz says:

    As one of the X-Files Alumni working on Intruders, I will remind you of the early reviews of X-Files. So you know that there are tax incentives in Canada, duh… Being a critic is the easiest job in the world. So remember “What goes around comes around”

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