A British Radio Play Is the Better Independence Day Sequel

All images: Fox
All images: Fox

Sure, there’s a movie sequel out now called Independence Day: Resurgence. Of course, it’s missing a lot of weird over-the-top charm that made the first movie fun. Thankfully, there’s a better option out there.

Independence Day UK is an hour-long radio play that aired on BBC Radio 1 in 1996, about a month after the original movie premiered in the US. It was meant as a way to promote the film in the UK, and combined the events of Independence Day with Orson Welles’ The War of Worlds. It’s very weird.

(All the involved names are doubtless much more familiar to the UK than to anyone else. I apologize in advance for being incurably American)


Independence Day UK has actual BBC broadcasters playing themselves. Well, themselves as they would be if there was a giant alien invasion. So the first half of the play is “UFO Watch,” with actual British presenters Nicky Campbell and Mark Goodier. Oh, and the astronomer Patrick Moore, who had the very strange task of trying to introduce anything remotely scientific into an Independence Day property. The part that has me laughing out loud was a comment that anything as large as the ships in the sky should have a catastrophic effect on the planet just by being in the sky.

You know what else is completely incongruous in the Independence Day universe? A press conference that announces a coalition government of Prime Minister John Major and Labour’s Tony Blair (not Prime Minister in 1996, young people). Which kind of forces you to imagine that the rest of the Independence Day universe is the same as ours. Does that mean that President Whitmore was preceded by George H.W. Bush? Because then I have to wonder about Whitmore’s political party, and that just makes my head hurt.

Once the “real” radio show is over, the rest of the radio play involves: 1) The destruction of London (20 years before the Resurgence did it) 2) a BBC traffic helicopter rescuing the royal family 3) the 73-year-old Patrick Moore fighting an alien and 4) sound bites taken from, I am not kidding, Plan 9 From Outer Space.

It’s a sidequel that is somehow the exact opposite of its source material. There’s an attempt to deal with science. There are real-life people referenced and in it. And, of course, it’s not focused entirely on Americans.


In fact, the man behind the play, Dirk Maggs, commented, “We even had one of the characters say at the end, ‘I bet the Americans claim the credit for this’! Which of course had to be the case - the producers of Independence Day forbade us to defeat the aliens, we had to leave that to Randy Quaid!”

The alternate universe London still built the Eye? WHY?
The alternate universe London still built the Eye? WHY?

Independence Day UK should have been used as a template for any other Independence Day projects. If they really wanted to destroy the parts of the world we didn’t get to see explode in 1996—which was a fair amount of the marketing for Resurgence—they should have just done what Independence Day UK did: tell parallel stories. The end of Independence Day gives the glory of figuring out how to defeat the aliens and leading the defeat to the Americans, sure, but there are stories to tell about other people’s courage during this massive worldwide catastrophe.

Because, as it is, a lingering question I have about Resurgence is why every city looks the same in the parallel universe as it does in this one. Shouldn’t they look massively different, having been rebuilt 20 years ago and with the benefit of all the new technology? Of course, destroying “Alternate London” has less of an impact than destroying a London that looks like ours. In which case, they should have just made Independence Day UK, Independence Day Japan, Independence Day Egypt, and so on and so forth. I would watch that series.


Katharine is the Associate Director of Policy and Activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the former managing editor of io9. She writes about technology policy and pop culture.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


That Small Dark Voice

If Whitmore flew—a fighter pilot, not a JAG like most who go military-to-politics these days—in the Gulf War...in early 1991...he would almost literally have had to climbed out of the cockpit from his final sortie in front of a microphone to announce his run in 1992.

Just wanted to toss that out there for folks whose migraines weren’t bad enough.