Yep. Feelin’ the need to babble about some tie-ins.
For those new to this “irregularly recurring blog feature, “Tied Up With Tie-ins” happens when I get the itch to take a (usually) fond look back at a favorite series of movie or TV tie-in books. This often means something older, such as the many different tie-ins which were all over the place during my childhood and early adulthood, though I’m certainly not snobby about checking out something newer.
For this latest installment, though? We’re turning back the clock a bit…not too far, but just far enough to be reminded that “History as we know it is a lie” thanks to a little TV show called Dark Skies.
This wasn’t a completely random choice, as September 21, 2021, marked the 25th anniversary of Dark Skies premiering on the NBC network. Written off by many as something of a clone/”rip-off” of The X-Files, which in 1996 was rolling with a full head of steam over on Fox, Dark Skies does indeed share some of the same DNA, rooted as it is in conspiracy theories regarding alien landings and government coverups of extraterrestrial contact. Both storylines used as a point of departure the supposed 1947 crash landing of an alien spaceship in Roswell, New Mexico, and ideas of government agents and officials not only knowing and concealing the truth but in some cases actively working against the aliens–or in some cases, working with them…willingly or not–Dark Skies takes a very different path going forward.
Unlike The X-Files, which mixed episodes of its ever expanding “Alien Mythology” story arc with standalone “Weirdness of the Week” tales unrelated to that larger narrative, Dark Skies from episode to episode stayed focused on the efforts of its main characters, John Loengard and Kimberly Sayers, to uncover the conspiracy, which by the time of the series’ beginning had been in play for more than 15 years as the aliens–parasitic beings who invade would-be hosts and take control of their bodies–work behind the scenes, infiltrating humans by way of manipulating historical events and prominent persons as part of their plan to covertly take over the planet.
Set as it was in the 1960s, encounters with all manner of historical figures and events was par for the course, such as the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963 which features in the series’ premiere episode. Loengard and Sayers find their efforts stymied at nearly every turn by the mysterious government organization known as “Majestic 12,” agents of which have been aware of the aliens since their arrival in 1947 and have been working to thwart their plans while at the same time keeping their presence secret from the general public. As the agency’s leader, Captain Frank Bach, explains and demonstrates on more than one occasion, this sometimes involves taking extreme measures (including the afformentioned JFK).
Despite a promising beginning and an ever-expanding mystery the show’s creators stated would play out over (at least) five seasons and as much as 40 years within the show’s storyline, Dark Skies was cancelled in the spring of 1997 after its first season. While the final episode does a decent enough job tying off some of the dangling storylines, the promise of there being so much more is just sitting there, waiting to be explored. Indeed, from what I’ve read of what creators Bryce Zabel and Brent V. Friedman had in mind, I imagine the story could be continued in the “here and now” while filling us in via flashbacks about everything that happened during the intervening years. Speaking as someone who was a fan of the series from the jump, that would be hella fun.
Like most television series that suffer a similar fate, opportunties for licensed tie-ins such as novels or comics were few so the show’s storyline was never continued via those platforms. Still, we weren’t left completely high and dry. First, there was The Awakening, written by author Stan Nicholls while adapting and condensing the series’ first five episodes. Published in the summer of 1997 (after the series’ cancellation) with a foreword by series co-creator Bryce Zabel, the book seemed to carry with it the promise of further adaptations and (perhaps) original stories the series itself couldn’t tell for whatever reason.
(This is still a fantastic idea, Mr. Zabel. Just sayin’).
Unfortunately, we only received the one book, at least on this front, and it wasn’t even published in the United States. One gets the sense that even if this book sold well enough and plans developed for additional novelizations and/or original novels, they were abandoned in the wake of the TV show’s cancellation.
Elsewhere, author Robin Doak apparently faced a similar set of circumstances. Ms. Doak wrote two shorter novels aimed at younger readers, The Awakening, which also adapts the premiere episode, and Alien Invasion, which is an adaptation of the episode “Dark Days Night,” in which Loengard and Sayers discover an alien scheme to hijack the Beatles’ 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show as a way to embed a covert signal that will help further their plans for Earth’s domination. Unlike their “adult reader” counterpart novel, these two books were published in the United States in 1997 and also ended with at least a hint of further adventures, be they adaptations or all-new stories, which of course ended up not being realized.
To be fair, I knew nothing about any of these books at the time of their publication. Only thanks to the wonder that is the internet did I learn of their existence and was eventually able to add them to my collection. As for the television series, I acquired it on DVD several years ago and, after watching it for the first time since its original broadcast during the 1996-1997 TV season, enjoyed it immensely all over again. Indeed, the series even ended up serving as inspiration once I started the rather oddball task of connecting dots between various episodes from the different Star Trek series – all of them dealing with time travel and/or the idea of aliens being on Earth long before “official first contact” with the Vulcans in 2063 – and crafting my own bit of “secret Star Trek history blended with real history” in the form of what ended up being three books: From History’s Shadow, Elusive Salvation, and Hearts and Minds.
Dark Skies, both on screen and through the precious few books it spawned, set into motion a storyline that demands to be continued in some fashion. Will that ever happen? I’ve learned to never say, “Never,” when it comes to these kinds of things, so I guess I’ll just have to keep watching the skies.
Previous entries in this series:
The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman
Planet of the Apes
The “No-Frills” Books
Alan Dean Foster!
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea