Simon Kinberg is out to invoke one of sci-fi’s greats:The War of the Worlds. Not the original H.G. Wells novel, which he loves, but Orson Welles’ 1938 radio drama. Welles’ broadcast, the tale goes, was so immersive that some listeners believed the United States really was being invaded by beings from another world. (Though that reaction wasn’t nearly as common as most retellings suggest.) The panic, however brief and limited, was part of what inspired Kinberg in the creation of Invasion, the Apple TV Plus drama that follows five people immediately after a hostile-seeming alien presence arrives on Earth.
“Now, obviously, you couldn’t do that today, with social media and technology and marketing, and what you and I are doing right now,” Kinberg tells Polygon. “But I wanted to tell an alien invasion story that felt as real and grounded scientifically, emotionally as possible.”
After decades of working on massive franchises — most notably as a writer and producer on the most recent X-Men films, but also as the co-creator of Star Wars: Rebels — Invasion is perhaps Kinberg’s biggest foray into original storytelling since scripting 2005’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a wildly entertaining Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie spy rom-com that was also Kinberg’s film-school thesis. Co-created with David Weil (best known for creating the Amazon series Hunters) Invasion brings a varied scope to its science fiction premise, often feeling as much like an intimate This Is Us-style drama as it does a sci-fi spectacle. This is very much by design.
“There’s a reason that this story isn’t told with, like, the president and secretary of defense — those are not our main characters. Our main characters are a family in the suburbs, and a bunch of kids in a school bus on a trip,” Kinberg says. “I wanted to tell [an invasion story] the way it would be experienced by, you know, 99.999 repeating-percent of our population, and just be in the dark. I wanted all these characters to be in crisis, and for their drama to be strong enough that it could stand on its own without aliens. And the aliens are just this huge added bonus that blows [the drama] up into a bigger scale and a bigger stage.”
Kinberg cites Lost as another big influence. The acclaimed ABC series blended a genre mystery around the mysterious island where its characters were stranded with their grounded, intimate backstories, making both narrative threads into equal driving forces.
“I really want this to feel like it is an unfolding, unraveling mystery, for characters that we love and care about, and for the audience to start to piece together and have theories about,” Kinberg says. “My hope, my dream for this is, like, I’m on Reddit, and there’s hundreds of different theories about why the aliens are here and what they want. And some of them are going to be right, and some of them are going to be wrong, and some of them are gonna inspire me to do whole new things.”
Invasion is currently streaming on Apple TV Plus, with new episodes available every Friday.