Scott Hardie: “It sucked.”
A friend lent me this miniseries on DVD, certain that I'd love it. I remember it being a minor cultural phenomenon when it aired, cementing Dakota Fanning's career and winning a bunch of awards, including an Emmy for best miniseries of the year. So why the low rating?
Time has not been kind to this series. In the fourteen years since it aired, the rise of prestige television has really raised the bar for quality, normalizing sharp dialogue and dynamic characters and unpredictable plotting and complex morality. Sadly, Taken lacks those qualities. Most of its characters are blandly generic and converse dimly with grade-school vocabularies. Its storyline is a patchwork of every alien-abduction cliché you've ever heard, with little new to say about the concept. And the series seems not to have given any thought at all to having a viewpoint or moral philosophy other than "government secrets bad, aliens neat." It so often undermines itself with inconsistent characterization and plot outcomes at cross-purposes that you have to give up and just try to enjoy it for the character moments and special effects, but the former are usually lacking and the latter are unimaginative.
I give the series a lot of credit for ambition. It's a novel concept to tell the story of alien abductions in America across three families and seven decades, meeting characters as children who will grow into adults and eventually become elders, seeing the choices and mistakes made by each generation have a ripple effect on their descendants. The series definitely goes big. And it does have some charms within its 15-hour running time: Young Dakota Fanning was indeed a real find, and a few of the characters are distinctive (Matt Frewer's creepy, cerebral scientist and Catherine Dent's kooky UFO buff stand out), and there's a delightful plot twist late in the series that I have to admit that I didn't see coming even thought it was hidden in plain sight. I'm glad that I watched the series, despite its problems. I just wish that I had seen it when it had first aired, because I think I would have appreciated it a lot more in its original cultural context.