Evolution of the Species Franchise

In 1995, MGM released sci-fi thriller Species. Unlike other, similar tales of extraterrestrial thugs taking control of Earth, not a single UFO, spaceship, death ray or doomsday weapon was employed; instead, the aliens took a far simpler (and no doubt less costly) route to planetary domination: DNA. As the DVD of Species III is released on DVD, Sci-fi-online looks at how the alien DNA plotline continued over the three movies and how their characters relate to one another...

Species sees scientists on Earth finally receive the long sought-after radio message from E.T. Far from the interstellar postcard they were expecting, a more intriguing signal is received: genetic instructions on how to create a human/alien hybrid. Ignoring the possible dangers in conducting such an experiment (the aliens are assumed friendly since they also provided the secrets of alternative energy), government scientists decide to go ahead with the project.

The result? A rapidly growing and maturing young girl named Sil, who appears human on the outside but is decidedly alien on the inside. Her growth and progress astounds her observers and frightens the military enough to decide she must be destroyed. However, this is unlike any other 12-year-old human/alien hybrid girl the military has ever encountered and she manages to escape.

Once free, Sil quickly develops into a fully-grown woman (played by blonde bombshell Natasha Henstridge) who is unsure of her role in society. With no formal education or understanding of the world around her, Sil has little grasp of basic human concepts such as money and clothes (and often manages to get along just fine without either). Her superior alien intellect learns quickly, however, and soon she is possessed with the most basic of human - and alien - instincts: procreation.

Sil, who is far stronger and deadlier than a garden variety human, plans to make lots of deadly babies and thus provide the alien force needed to dominate Earth. Fortunately, a special team of civilian and military personnel manage to track down and eliminate Sil before she breeds, making the world safe again.

Or do they? As we have witnessed time and time again, those pesky military scientists never seem to learn.

Following the worldwide success of Species, Henstridge once again portrayed a gorgeous alien-experiment-gone-awry in the follow-up, Species II. Using genetic material reclaimed from the original Sil, our favourite lab scientist (played by Marg Helgenberger, also reprising her role from the original) has cloned the half-breed and created Eve. This time around, the alien temptress has been infused with more human DNA, resulting in a more docile creature. Although she still has the urge to get it on, she is kept safely away from society (especially the men), once again locked away in a military science lab. She's alone, she's more human, what harm can she do?

Unbeknown to Eve (and the rest of the team), astronaut and presidential hopeful Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard) has returned from his latest trip to Mars carrying a virus that infuses him with alien DNA, in essence making him half alien. He soon embarks on a mission similar to Sil's in the first film and violently impregnates as many women as possible, creating a master race of children who will soon take over our planet.

Back in the lab, Eve has established a mental link with Ross and realises that this is the man she has been waiting for all her life: a half-alien hombre with whom she is destined to breed; together, they can create a species more alien and deadly than anything previously imagined. Naturally, she escapes her captors and hooks up with her crush, only to learn the hard way that love does not conquer all. Eve and Ross, in a post-coital rage, duke it out bug-eyed monster-style in a startling special effects extravaganza that leaves Ross dead and Eve battered, but alive - and pregnant!

The newest instalment of the series, Species III, picks up right where its predecessor left off as Eve, in her final moments of life, gives birth to the next-generation alien, Sara (played by newcomer Sunny Mabrey). The young lass is rescued by Dr. Abbot (Robert Knepper), a university researcher who takes the girl in and raises her as his own daughter.

Abbot discovers her true nature and realises he has the opportunity of a lifetime, so he begins his own experiments on her. By carefully manipulating genetic samples, the doctor hopes to weed out her human genes and create a pure strain of alien DNA. Little does Abbot realise that while he attempts to create a new breed of alien under his microscope, the nubile, college-age Sara has plans to create new aliens the old-fashioned way: by finding her perfect mate.

Although the Species trilogy is clearly meant to entertain, three films of similar plot threads and themes point to something more beneath the surface (much like our lead human/alien characters). One could argue that these movies are metaphors regarding the duality of man; while on the surface most of us are usually happy, shiny people, we all have a dark side that reveals itself, often during moments of heightened emotion - or passion.

Obviously in the Species films, the alien side (or beast) is brought to the surface in Sil, Eve and Sara when they engage in sexual relations - a metaphor true for many "normal" folks. Inhibitions disappear and true selves often emerge while in the throws of passion - an idea the trilogy takes to an extreme level.

However, these films reveal a more subtle take on this theme - that passion of any kind can unleash evil if left unchecked. In each chapter of the series, we see intelligent, even-tempered scientists driven to the brink of madness by their desires - and passions - to unlock the secrets of alien DNA. Good natured doctors become evil madmen (and women) who disregard morality and have little regard for human life when driven by their ambitions. While these actions do not turn them into monsters in the literal sense, they are transformed into something every bit as evil.

Does all this lead to hidden moral in the Species films? Perhaps a twist on an old adage would suffice: Passion corrupts, and absolute passion... corrupts absolutely.

With thanks to John Biggin at DNA

MGM's Species III is available to rent on DVD from 28 March 2005.

Buy Species - Special Edition by clicking here
Buy Species II by clicking here
Buy Species III (Region 1/USA DVD) by clicking here

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