This is based on a book written by English writer Arthur C Clarke , who lived most of his life in Sri Lanka. As such, it could be taken as a metaphor for the post-Colonial turmoil that affected many small nations in that era. Of course, it has been updated for a 21st Century American audience, although it may seem out-of-date compared to many of the SciFi TV shows it inspired.
Alien spacecraft arrive on Earth and hover above several cities - like in Independence Day . Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel - Under The Dome ), a Missouri redneck, is chosen as ambassador for the Human Race by the alien supervisor, Karellen (Charles Dance - Dracula Untold ).
A Media Mogul named Hugo Wainwright (Colm Meaney - Star Trek: DS9 ) founds and finances a massive anti-alien Resistance movement. However, this is not as straightforward as it seems. The aliens have godlike powers, since they can send a holographic avatar in the image of anyone's deceased loved one, and speak in that person's language - presumably by telepathy. They do not use their powers directly, except to prevent bullets from killing people anywhere on Earth. The aliens' mission is to end war, poverty and pestilence - or rather, to persuade the humans to find their own solutions. Naturally, the Resistance prefer poverty and pollution to being the client race of the Alien Overlords.
The really sad fact is that the Alien Overlords only illustrate that it is human beings solving humanity's problems. If the US Navy donated all its ships then they could feed the starving in Africa, while the Saudi Arabian oil pipelines could pipe water to famine zones. Will humans do the right thing, or will selfishness win? To the aliens, the humans are like children - albeit with nuclear weapons. The next step will be interstellar travel, creating a Star Trek: First Contact situation. The aliens do not adopt a Plan 9 From Outer Space scheme to terrify the humans into nuclear disarmament, although the idea of holograms of dead people is not far off it. From the aliens' perspective it is like The White Man's Burden ... with the humans cast as Half demon and half child ... with thermo-nuclear weapons!
The main reason that humans distrust the aliens is that the aliens refuse to show their true appearance. This mystery is answered at the end of the episode, but all it does is create more questions.
In the decades since the aliens arrived, all science has been abandoned. After all, why bother looking for answers when someone else can just give you them? Of course, this paints the Vulcans in Star Trek: Enterprise in a pretty good light. After all, they took the humans on as a client species but denied them higher levels of technology such as Interstellar travel, thus encouraging the humans to develop science and tech independently.
There is one scientific instuitution left on Earth. It is run by Dr. Rupert Boyce (Julian McMahon - Charmed ), and its purpose is to collect sample animals for the alien overlords. He may look like Viktor Von Doom, but Boyce has a plan. He wants to be the first human to see the alien homeworld. However, he is smart enough to know that the aliens collecting animals, two by two, means they are building an Ark.
A couple of average Americans have a son. However, he behaves unusually. It seems the aliens might be interfering with human breeding. The parents get a child psychologist to investigate. Unfortunately the scientist is in fact a religious fanatic.
Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel - Under The Dome ) is suffering from an unknown illness. Karellen (Charles Dance - Dracula Untold ) reveals that the illness was caused by his presence on the alien starship. Their health and safety inspections obviously did not have human physiology in mind. Also, it turns out that they deliberately interfered with his own physiology. Something bad is about to happen, and the aliens do not want to prevent it.
Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel - Under The Dome ) is still suffering the effects of the alien sickness.
Dr. Rupert Boyce (Julian McMahon - Charmed ) is nowhere to be seen. However, his sidekick - the token black guy - wants to take his dream of being the first human to visit the alien homeworld. He decides to stow away on the alien starship. This means being put in stasis, which means being freeze-dried.
The creepy children just get creepier. In a classic sense this is reminiscent of Children of the Damned , itself based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos - which was presumably inspired in part by the novel this mini-series was based on. One might also make reference to the Xmas Special of Doctor Who (2005) in which David Tennant made his first appearance, or the mini-series of Torchwood . Yes, this story has been out-done by six decades worth of imitators.
The parents of the creepy children take them to New Athens, a city-state where humans have rejected alien influence. However, every human on the planet is subject to the same fate.
One has to bear in mind that this story was written by the same man who created the monolith-builders in 2001: A Space Odyssey . This is a drama about humans in a universe where the aliens' motivations are exactly that - alien. As a result, the ending lacks the catharsis that the mainstream audience prefer.