Taken with Taken

I’ve been watching Steven Spielberg’s 2002 mini-series “Taken”, ever since having recently stumbled across it on NetFlix. Somehow the existence of this miniseries had completely eluded me until now. Maybe because I don’t have a TV.

The wonderfully zany premise is that all the UFO stuff is true — Roswell, the abductions, the big Government cover-up — all of it. But with the following clever twist: It’s not treated as a big SciFi special effects extravaganza, but rather as a series of intimate small-scale stories of the generations of people whose lives have been affected by these events.

The confluence of these two opposite principles makes for wonderful fun. Take the most insanely ridiculous premise, and treat it with utmost seriousness in every way. No tongue-in-cheek self-referential winking (as in the X Files), or comic absurdity (as in Men in Black) or superhero wish-fulfilment fantasy (as in Green Lantern). Just straight carefully constructed human drama, focusing on families, relationships, human emotion, loneliness and connection, the everyday betrayals and small revelations that define character.

It all works spectacularly well as entertainment. And I find myself trying to think of another example of such a thing. An absolutely straight ahead serious and psychologically plausible treatment of a completely laughable premise.

So far I haven’t been able to think of any others.

6 thoughts on “Taken with Taken”

  1. Would you consider some of the Twilight Zone episodes to be in this category? (I’m still trying to think of other examples.)

  2. I wouldn’t include “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — and I say this as a fanatical Buffy fan. Starting in its second season, BtVS becomes partly about being a kind of knowing meta-verse, where the characters are often on the verge of acknowledging that they live in an absurd artificially constructed world. This sense that the writers are continually threatening to directly address the audience through the characters is part of what makes Buffy so much fun.

    Yes, I see how some Twilight Zone episodes have this quality. Maybe that’s because Rod Serling was drawing from classic post-WWII SciFi short fiction, in which very serious people placed into impossible circumstance become parables for modern existence. In that sense, you might say that John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” is classic post-WWII science fiction.

    I haven’t read “Axis”, but now I will! 🙂

  3. Doug, I haven’t read “Axis” either. I just looked it up and it sounds like a sequel to “Spin”. Do you recommend reading “Spin” first?

  4. Oh, yes. I was thinking of _Spin_. Both novels are mostly about how the characters feel about the situations they are in, their relationships, their lives, while some huge cosmic event takes place very slowly and spectacularly in the background.

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