The Aliens is E4’s new drama with direct parallels to the situation for migrants and refugees today says Tazmin Aldis.
Aliens creator Fintan Ryan uses the premise of a future where Aliens arrived on Earth nearly 40 years ago and, despite their uncanny resemblance to the human kind, they are ruthlessly discriminated against – banished to the other side of ‘The Wall’ where they live in the dire poverty of their ghetto.
The main character, Lewis – played by Michael Socha – works as a border guard and has been raised as a xenophobe. Through the eyes of Lewis we experience a future that struck me as a direct parallel between the Aliens’ strife to that of immigrants’. The situations witnessed will not come as a surprise to anyone who is aware of the current migrant crisis.
In the opening scene of the first episode Lewis talks to a group of primary school children about border control at ‘The Wall’ – a concept which is reminiscent of the infamous Calais camp. Throughout his talk, which we assume should be unbiased and educational, Lewis proceeds to slander Aliens through stereotypes and his own personal prejudices. He also outlines situations where Aliens are acceptable, this being when they want to “come over to work and behave” but even during this circumstance, he says “me and people like me are going to make sure they’re tagged, sprayed and back on their side of The Wall by 8 o’clock.”
Aliens are treated no better than instruments for cheap labour, to be lorded over and abused by the humans in the same way that unsupportive government policies and attitudes are leading to the abuse of immigrants’ rights in the workplace. After frightening the children with his intense and unyielding discrimination Lewis concludes with phrases such as “Cheer-up, you’re on the good side” and “Don’t worry, I’m not going to let anything bad happen” — statements which are so blaringly ironic it is almost painful for the viewer to watch them leave his mouth.
Lewis’ view of the “good side” seems to be one where law enforcement personnel are uncompromisingly prejudiced, using derogatory terms such as ‘Morks’ to refer to Aliens. His attempt at not letting “anything bad happen” is being a part of the very institution that has created a damaging environment for the Aliens. His is the same ‘idealism’ which has been witnessed in the tear-gassing of migrants in camps as a forced evacuation method by law enforcement – a entity which we are meant to be able to rely on for protection as opposed to persecution.
Although the comparison to the migrant crisis means that the show is heavy on political content, while watching I was uncertain of the series creator Ryan’s political aims within the programme or if there were any. If anything, the series intends to communicate the nonsensical prejudices of xenophobes to viewers who have yet to take a stand on the issue.
The Aliens continues on E4 and is available at channel4.com