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'Invasion': Race Is On to Save the Earth

May 03, 1997|JON MATSUMOTO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Is NBC trying to corner the market on miniseries about space rocks plummeting to Earth?

Last February, the network chalked up big ratings when it unleashed the torpid two-part disaster film "Asteroid." Now NBC is hoping for similar returns with its presentation of Robin Cook's "Invasion," which airs at 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday.

Fortunately, this meteor movie actually warrants a substantial viewership. "Invasion" may be a lot more farfetched than its comparatively plausible predecessor, but it's also significantly more entertaining.

The villain in "Asteroid" was a characterless space rock that threatened to wipe out Dallas and cause widespread environmental devastation. With "Invasion," the countless pebble-sized meteors that fall from the sky contain a virus designed to brainwash and transform humans into otherworldly creatures. The scoundrels behind this scheme are sophisticated aliens with an obvious low regard for human civilization.

"Invasion" is similar in theme to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," the classic 1956 science-fiction film in which humans are replaced by alien duplicates. But novelist Cook--who is known for penning medical thrillers such as "Outbreak"--has introduced a plague-type dimension that presents a handful of courageous doctors as potential saviors of mankind.

Dr. Sheila Moran (Kim Cattrall) and Dr. Pitt Henderson (Christopher Orr) are among the heroic figures who must find an antidote to the alien virus before the human species has been irrevocably altered. Standing in their way is Beau Stark (Luke Perry), once an engaging young man who, as the first person infected, has been transmuted into the egotistical leader of the new alien colony on Earth.

This race to save the world is presented in a fairly fantastic and unbelievable fashion, and the underwhelming conclusion is never in doubt. But "Invasion" contains enough dramatic energy, smartly executed plot twists and spicy special effects to keep the viewer hooked, despite a less than charismatic performance by Perry.

* "Invasion" airs Sunday and Monday at 9 p.m. on NBC (Channel 4). The network has rated it TV-14 (may not be suitable for children under the age of 14).

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