Director – Robert Lieberman, Teleplay – Christian Ford & Roger Soffer, Producers – Matthew O’Connor & Michael O’Connor, Photography – Thomas Burstyn, Music – Jeff Rona, Visual Effects Supervisor – Lee Wilson, Visual Effects – Anthem Visual Effects, Special Effects Supervisor – Kevin Andrushak, Makeup Effects – SFX Studio Inc., Production Design – Errol Clyde Klotz. Production Company – Hallmark Entertainment/Reunion Pictures.
Gil Bellows (Dr Lloyd Walker), Darryl Hannah (Elizabeth Quinlan), Suleka Matthew (Marianne Winters), Patrick Gilmore (Spence LeRocher), Campbell Scott (Commander William Phillips), Beau Starr (Oliver), Serge Houde (Commissioner Korshaft), Tina Milo (Bella), Tygh Runyan (Nick), John Cassini (Jake Roth)
Archaeologist Lloyd Walker is upset when his dig site is commandeered by city hall following an accident where one of his students is swallowed up by a sinkhole that appears in the ground. He is then horrified to find that the entire dig has been ordered concreted over without any attempt made to search for the body. He is subsequently contacted by journalist Jake Roth seeking to connect this to a number of other disappearances. Walker heads underground and finds a nest of eggs waiting to be hatched. All of the clues lead to the mysterious Room 86 at City Hall. There Lloyd finds suspicious things – all the others in the waiting room have been given cards with identical phrases asking them to be given ‘special treatment’. He and several others, including entomologist Marianne Winters, fired salesman Spence LeRocher, the widower Oliver and European immigrant Bella and her brother Nick, push past the front desk to find that insectoid aliens are taking over people’s bodies. The aliens now control City Hall and the police force. Hunted on all sides, the group try to find a way to fight back.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Hallmark Entertainment, a production company for the US Hallmark cable channel, which in itself was a spin-off from the Hallmark greeting cards company, produced a number of mini-series and tv movies that adapt classic literary, fairytales, family and fantasy works. (A full list of Hallmark’s other genre productions is at the bottom of the page),
Final Days of Planet Earth is an alien invasion mini-series, although the grandiose title makes it sound more like a Syfy Channel disaster movie or something akin to the Biblical apocalypse of The Late, Great Planet Earth (1978). In fact, the plot would have no problem being boiled down from its nearly three-hour runtime to working as a B-budget alien invader film of the 1950s, probably made as a 70-80 minute supporting feature. It would undoubtedly work a good deal better as a cheesy B budget alien invader film whereas as a mini-series it feels like it has been padded three times beyond its natural length with the addition of a crosscut of characters and canned pieces of drama running around city hall.
As it is, the mini-series has a level of absurdity to its writing that promptly plummets down to one of the worst alien invasion stories ever made. Where to begin? There is the prize camp moment where Darryl Hannah has her face partially torn off revealing insectoid mandibles beneath. Hannah gives a performance where you get the impression she regarded the exercise as beneath her and was having difficulty reigning it in and not camping it up.
There is also the absurd thinking that the behaviour bugs exhibit – climbing walls, being lulled to a stupor by smoke – is something that would automatically translate over to an alien species where the bugs are around human size. One also gets the impression that tv’s V (1983) and resulting tv series V (1984-5) was a major influence over Final Days of Planet Earth – Darry Hannah’s queen seems modelled on Jane Badler’s Diana. Moreover, like V, as soon as the bugs are wearing their human skin they seem to automatically prefer to stay that way for most of the show (it cuts down on costs using actors instead of costly creature effects) and then start demonstrating human-like behaviour.
Final Days of Planet Earth is an absurd series on every level. When its beginner’s level plot is not being padded out by endless pieces of filler action, the basic lack of credibility on any level kills it off. One of the amusing pieces about it is that the single unnamed city setting – in actuality Vancouver whose distinctive City Hall where much of the action is located also stands in for the police station in tv’s The Flash (2014- ) – seems to represent the whole of the Earth and that by taking over one city with a ridiculously large amount of manpower, the aliens somehow seem to think that this equals conquering the earth.
About the one plus of the show is it gives the underrated Canadian actor Gil Bellows good screen time where he holds up well as the leading man, as also does fellow Canadian Patrick Gilmore in an amusing performance as a failed used car salesman constantly on the hustle.
Robert Lieberman is a director who has mostly worked in television. He previously made the quite good true-life based alien abduction film Fire in the Sky (1993). Lieberman has also directed other genre mini-series such as the futuristic cyber-thriller Net Force (1999), the fantasy series Earthsea (2004) and the disaster mini-series Eve of Destruction (2013), as well as the horror film The Tortured (2010).
Hallmark’s other works of genre note are:– the sf mini-series White Dwarf (1995), The Canterville Ghost (1996), Gulliver’s Travels (1996), Harvey (1996), the Christmas musical Mrs Santa Claus (1996), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1996), the children’s horror Shadow Zone: The Undead Express (1996), the medical thriller Terminal (1996), The Odyssey (1997), the cloning thriller The Third Twin (1997), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997), the monster movie Creature (1998), Merlin (1998), the sf film Virtual Obsession (1998), Aftershock: Earthquake in New York (1999), Alice in Wonderland (1999), Animal Farm (1999), A Christmas Carol (1999), the tv series Farscape (1999-2003), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1999), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999), The Magical Land of the Leprechauns (1999),Arabian Nights (2000), the modernised Hamlet (2000), Jason and the Argonauts (2000), Prince Charming (2000), the mini-series The 10th Kingdom (2000) set in an alternate world where fairy-tales are true, the medical thriller Acceptable Risk (2001), The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells (2001), Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (2001), The Monkey King/The Lost Empire (2001), My Life as a Fairytale: Hans Christian Andersen (2001), Snow White (2001), the series Tales from the Neverending Story (2001), the fantasy adventure Voyage of the Unicorn (2001), the Sherlock Holmes film The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (2002), Dinotopia (2002), The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002), the Christmas film Mr St. Nick (2002), the Christmas film Santa Jr (2002), Snow Queen (2002), the modernised A Carol Christmas (2003), Children of Dune (2003), the American Indian legends mini-series Dreamkeeper (2003), the children’s monster film Monster Makers (2003), Angel in the Family (2004), A Christmas Carol (2004), Earthsea (2004), 5ive Days to Midnight (2004) about forewarning of the future, Frankenstein (2004), King Solomon’s Mines (2004), the Christmas film Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus (2004), Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone (2005), Hercules (2005), the thriller Icon (2005), Meet the Santas (2005), Mysterious Island (2005), the disaster mini-series Supernova (2005), The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb (2006), Merlin’s Apprentice (2006), the bird flu disaster mini-series Pandemic (2006), the disaster mini-series 10:15 Apocalypse (2006), the psychic drama Carolina Moon (2007), the psychic drama Claire (2007) and the ghost story Something Beneath (2007).
Mini-Series Available Part 1 here
Part 2 here