Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Kettering Incident - fact and fiction in the service of intelligent drama?

"I went out to the hazel wood, 
Because a fire was in my head ...
And when white moths were on the wing, 
And moth-like stars were flickering out ...
It had become a glimmering girl ...
And faded through the brightening air ...
I will find out where she has gone ...
These quotes from W B Yeats 1899 poem inform the strange trajectory of Foxtel Showcase series "The Kettering Incident".
The poem is read by Dr. Anna Macy (compellingly played by Elizabeth Debicki) to her young patient Molly in a London hospital. Molly is running out of time, but Anna Macy own experience of time and place is heavily fractured. Her poem reading is interrupted by a nose bleed. She is victim to disturbing turmoil, perhaps post traumatic stress disorder or worse - perhaps madness, all relating to a disturbing experience she was a part of 15 years earlier. Anna and her younger companion Gillian Baxter disappear in the wake of an encounter with strange lights on Mother Sullivans Ridge. Anna turns up after being missing for an hour unable to shed light on what happened, but Gillian remains missing. This is the Kettering incident at the heart of this striking gothic like mystery thriller.
This review is based on my viewing of the first 2 episodes and if the rest of the 8 part series maintains the impact and quality of its strong and compelling opening, then you are in for a great show, irrespective of how the story plays out, whether its a UFO/alien abduction mystery, psychological thriller, crime drama or something else entirely. The show's creators/writers Victoria Madden and Vincent Sheehan deliver a story that provides striking gothic resonances with such shows as "Twin Peaks", "The X-Files", "Broadchurch", "Picnic at Hanging Rock" and "Locusts and Wild Honey."
"The Kettering Incident" is of course fiction, fiction well delivered. "Locusts and Wild Honey" (1980) was heavily informed by the 1978 disappearance of Cessna pilot Frederick Valentich over Bass Strait - one of Australian's premier aviation mysteries and a striking UFO mystery. The Valentich mystery is a subtle touchstone for the Kettering Incident. 
My own 1996 book "The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story" describes the Valentich story and in fact mentions a striking 1976 UFO landing event at the small Tasmanian town of Kettering. But this real Kettering event does not get any recognisable airing at least in the first 2 episodes. 
The TUFOIC investigation at Kettering
Instead what informs the narrative is a bizarre Fortean mix of things including disappearing people, dead birds (a feature in some real UFO narratives such as Warminster in England and even in our own Blue Mountains), strange lights, hints of alien abduction, or some sort of crime - murder perhaps. Brooding undercurrents and conflicts abound - fractured families, realities and rifts and timber cutting conflicts - are played out.
Its great to see, at least in the first 2 episodes, that the mantra of the crazy ufologist is not played out. Dominque Harrold is presented as a scientist trying to figure out what is going on using instrumented field monitoring and cautious discussions with what seems an ad hoc alien abduction support group. Here's hoping this more intelligent "ufologist" trope is maintained to the end.
"The Kettering Incident", based on my take of the first 2 episodes, appears to be delivering an intelligent, mature and well crafted drama that plays with high strangeness. Enjoy the ride and check it out.
"The Kettering Incident" debuts on Foxtel Showcase on July 4.
Some screen grabs from the first 2 episodes - including some interesting snow globes (I want one! ), conflicting "evidence" and a great cast of characters.