Sky original The Midwich Cuckoos offers a modern take on the classic John Wyndham sci-fi chiller

Offering a fresh take on John Wyndham’s classic science fiction novel, new Sky Original The Midwich Cuckoos promises to creep the nation as all seven episodes drop on Sky and Now streaming services.

Adapted for the screen by Emmy award-nominated writer David Farr (The Night Manager, and HCC favourite Hanna), the show stars Keeley Hawes (Bodyguard), and Max Beesley (The Outsider) in a strong ensemble cast.

The original book, about eerie school kids with uncanny powers, has had several big-screen adaptations, most successfully as Village of the Damned in 1960, directed by Wolf Rilla. A sequel, Children of the Damned, followed in 1964. Village of the Damned was remade in 1995, with John Carpenter at the helm.

‘I first read the book when I was 12 and got totally obsessed about it,’ explains Farr, at the show’s preview screening. ‘I didn’t realise there had already been films (one of which is great, one of which is not so great). It took a long time to get the rights - it’s very difficult to get the rights once Hollywood has made a movie of something!’

The story has been brought up to date for its smallscreen debut. An unexplained blackout engulfs Midwich, a small English commuter town, rendering those that live there, and any that try to enter, instantly unconscious.

When the blackout lifts, every woman of child-bearing age inside the zone finds themselves inexplicably pregnant. The cuckoos have arrived.

‘It’s a wonderful book, but it’s obviously of its time,’ says Farr. ‘I wanted to update to a town like my town. I knew it was a story about mothers. Wyndham is a very male writer, all his lead characters are male, so instinctively the first change was to turn Gordon Zellaby, a stentorian male who talks a lot, into a woman who is more of a listener, a therapist, and Keeley Hawes is wonderful in the role.’

‘I haven’t read the book,’ admits Hawes, ‘I didn’t think it would be particularly useful.’

‘What I love about the story is that it’s really about family, what it’s like to bring a life into the world and then not be sure if it’s yours. We made some changes from the book, to make it look like the children are not so obviously alien.’

Farr says Wyndham made Cold War children. ‘They’re all identical. I didn’t follow that, because I wanted to explore themes of attachment and family.’

The show has stayed true to its SF chiller roots though, which should please fans. ‘There’s this weird species takeover thing, which is big in the book, and it’s there in our version too, but you get a bit of both.

‘As we see in episode 2, the children have a very strong power, and will. They can make the mothers do certain things. It’s scary.’

Of the show, Farr says: ‘It’s not gory, but it's creepy. There’s a lot of high-octane stuff flying around at the moment and we occupy a slightly different space.’

The Midwich Cuckoos also stars Cherrelle Skeete (Hanna), Samuel West (All Creatures Great and Small), Aisling Loftus (A Discovery of Witches), Ukweli Roach (Blindspot), Lara Rossi (Robin Hood), Lewis Reeves (I May Destroy You), Rebekah Staton (Raised by Wolves) and Anneika Rose (Line of Duty).

The Midwich Cuckoos is on Sky Max and Now.