Finished your list? Okay, that was a little unfair. Recently there’s been time-hopping Netflix show Dark. Otherwise, scouring our brains, all we can think of are 1966’s Raumpatrouille (best known here for its groovy lounge-jazz score), and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1973 mini-series Welt Am Draht (World On A Wire). Oh, and ’70s cheese-fest Star Maidens was a German co-production. It’s fair to say making sci-television just isn’t really a German thing – especially the kind that can travel internationally.
The brainchild of showrunner/director Rainer Matsutani, Spides is his attempt to buck the trend. Set in modern-day Berlin, this eight-part series melds sci-fi, horror and conspiracy thriller with police procedural. A ’50s classic was a key inspiration.
“When I was 12,” Matsutani tells SFX, “I turned on the TV and saw an old movie called Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, made by Don Siegel. It had a big influence on me. I was fascinated by the concept: people return, and they’ve completely changed. In those times it was an allegory for the Cold War. I think it still serves as an allegory for our modern life – with digitalization and globalization, many people have the feeling they’re losing their identity.”
This latest riff on the concept sees aliens from a dying planet seeking to supplant humanity through stealth. The means: Blis, a synthetic drug that young clubbers administer via an eyedropper. The name of these invaders supplies the title.
“The Spides, on their home planet, are spider-like creatures, and have a hive mentality,” Matustani explains. “They’re organized like insects: they have a queen and then drones, and this plays an important part.”
Early episodes only give us brief glimpses of a Spide drone. Judging by the concept art we’re shown, it’s a creepy creation. Featuring an obsidian surface, horn-like hair that rattles, and a subdermal glow that conveys emotion, it can also talk through a human, puppeteering them via tentacles that connect into the brain. It’s fully revealed, in all its CGI glory, in the finale. But don’t expect to see Spides, in their true form, en masse.
“In our show, the aliens don’t land on ships and start a huge battle over the Earth,” Matsutani says. “Instead, with the help of human scientists, they come via alien DNA, given with this cheap drug. These kids disappear for two to three days after taking Blis, and when they return home they’ve totally changed their personality.
“We have two storylines,” he continues. “One is Nora’s, this young woman who awakens from a coma. The other perspective is two cops. One’s working for narcotics, the other’s from the missing person department, and they hook up together to solve the case.”
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