TV - Horizon

Horizon

Horizon is a brand-new web series, that runs for 10 parts over 10 consecutive nights (it started yesterday, Monday 5th of October). Barnaby Eaton-Jones has had a sneaky peek at the first three episodes ...

So, do you like 'The Day Of The Triffids'? You do? Then, look to the 'Horizon'. Do you like 'Independence Day'? You do? Look to the 'Horizon' again. Do you like 'The Walking Dead'? You do? Well, that 'Horizon' is beckoning.

This 10-part series for the web is a mish-mash of many influences but yet seems like something new. Whether this is because it is set in Bristol, away from the usual landmarks of an alien invasion type of story, is a matter of conjecture but it's pleasing to see the Clifton Suspension Bridge, for example, in place of Big Ben (and you can watch the bridge take a couple of direct hits from out-of-control, hastily scrambled airforce jets from not-too-far-away Brize Norton, in Episode 3).

So, what's the premise aside from a massive floating alien spaceship in the sky above Bristol? Having watched the first three episodes ('Arrival', 'Evacuate' and 'Reunion'), it's clear that the economy of story-telling and the broad set-up of characters and situation gives it a sometimes jumpy feel but, in the days of quick editing and fast-paced spectacle over dialogue, it's also a clever way of cutting to the chase. There's also a little mystery set up in this first episode, aside from the spaceship hanging in the sky, where an unresponsive child is seen to have a strange mark on her neck before being brought back to life again by two of the main characters. But, the first episode action begins from the get-go when you're plunged right into the aftermath of a car crash pile-up on the road and we're introduced to four of the main five characters.

There's Steven - the clear leader (he's got a beard, which proves he's the Alpha Male), though obviously under pressure and not impartial to the odd drink. He's played by Paul Tonkin, with a sort of wide-eyed innocence and desperation. Almost as if he's a rabbit caught in the headlights but knows he's got to get the rest of the rabbits safely across the road. Then, there's Dan - a sort of second in command, played by Simon Pearce - who looks way too young to be wearing a suit but plays the everyman character very well. Oddly, the only character who isn't fully fleshed out in the first three episodes but you know he'll either turn out to be a hero or end up being cannon-fodder for alien lasers later, possibly. To begin the first episode staring at the camera and hysterically crying is Alicia Ancel's Chloe, who does realistic upset very well (including the smudged make-up!). There's a brittle quality to her role, who – once the initial aspect of what's happened to them all has passed – becomes a stronger character because of it. She's the emotional heart of the group and provides a good foil for the enigmatic Nicole (played by Kate Davies, who seems to deliver her sarcastic dialogue with real relish – she's definitely got the toughest character in terms of actual toughness and without lapsing over into melodrama). Nicole, it's clear from the start, is the coldest of the characters and more concerned with herself than with the team dynamic. There's some teasing from the beginning of her relationship and reason for being there, so I think she's the character to watch as the episode unfolds. We've got an exclusive interview with her tomorrow.

It's pleasing to see a group of actors cast in roles where they actually look like they might be travelling in a car together and know each other, rather than casting done for reasons of political correctness or because they're incredibly easy on the eye. There's a reality to these people which pulls you in to begin with, especially when we get to Episode 3 and meet the fifth character - Kessie Bartlett's Katie – a typical wild child teenager who's more mixed up than a bag of Revels. The third episode revolves around her and her 'gang', who are right at the heart of the action, on a tower block underneath the spaceship. When Steven comes to 'rescue' her, there's a great dynamic between him as the elder figure and the gang of youths she hangs with. It ends with a fantastic cliffhanger that has to be seen to be believed.

Kudos to the writer/director/producer Paul Dudbridge for bringing such a great team together behind the cameras to make the actors in front look so good. There's a Hollywood sheen to this web series that belies the budget I'm sure they had to work with, so it deserves to be seen and taken notice of. It's not perfect, and some of the acting isn't as natural as it could have been (but, hey, when have you ever been able to draw on 'emotion memory' for acting in front of an alien spaceship?), but it moves quickly, sets up the scene and characters well, and – although the tropes are familiar (especially as they intend to escape Bristol to a remote farmhouse) – it's got a style of its own. The deciding factor is, of course, the timeframe too. These episodes are between 4 and 10 minutes long. The three I've seen don't outstay their welcome and manage to fit a lot of exposition in very naturally, alongside some thrills and spills. So, I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing how the story progresses and what happens.

View EPISODE ONE (and other episodes): http://www.horizonwebseries.com/

Image - official website