E4’s ‘The Aliens’: Sci-Fi Goes Gangster

Stars of new E4 comedy drama The Aliens, Michael Socha and Michaela Coel, plus writer Fintan Ryan, take us inside the show that’s rewriting the rules of sci-fi

The extraterrestrials in The Aliens aren’t little green men. They don’t have gills or a third eye, and they aren’t triple-breasted. They’re ordinary-looking types who landed on earth 40 years ago. “There aren’t many differences between the aliens and humans,” says This is England’s Michael Socha, who plays lead character Lewis in the six-episode series. “The aliens have just got bigger dicks.”

The Aliens is a radical reimagining of the sci-fi genre, beyond giving its menfolk big bulges. It’s from the same team that created Misfits and shares with that superheroes-with-ASBOs show a desire to bring sci-fi bang up to date. The extraterrestrials are an allegory for modern-day refugees – disinfected, tagged and kept in quarantine in a ghetto called Troy, only let out to clean the humans’ loos. Socha’s Lewis works as a security guard on the border of Troy. Like most humans, he doesn’t like the aliens much. But there’s a snag. He is one. “Humans have been taught to not like aliens; Lewis finds them disgusting,” Socha says. “But then Lewis finds out he is half alien and his whole world falls apart.”

The Aliens is not simply social satire. Writer Fintan Ryan, who also wrote BBC Three’s In The Flesh, wanted to create a British crime drama that was more Breaking Bad than The Bill. He came up with the idea of Troy, a police no-go zone. Then came the concept of alien fur being a precious illegal commodity that, he says, “is a narcotic for humans”. Its very existence creates in-fighting within the alien community.

Into this melee lands Lewis, drawn into Troy to rescue his drug-dealing sister and becoming embroiled in gang warfare. The situation is complicated by his infatuation with female alien Lilyhot. Played by Chewing Gum writer and star Michaela Coel, she is a lone, terrifically violent woman in a predominantly male criminal underground. “Lilyhot is fighting for power in a world dominated by men,” says Coel. “She’s in a low-level gang but it’s small game for her. She just kills and moves on.”

Cute aliens, it seems, went out with E.T.. “A lot of them are nasty bastards,” says Ryan. Sci-fi’s about to get gangster.

WORDS: Colin Crummy