In 1996, BBC Radio 1 broadcast an audio drama based on the hit film but from a British point of view.
In the summer of 1996, there was one big film that was dominating the box office of cinemas everywhere. With a huge wave of advertising mostly involving the American White House being obliterated by the powerful laser beam of an alien spacecraft, Independence Day was making its mark.
There was plenty of linked merchandise as with any large blockbuster film including a CD-ROM which delighted a younger nerdy me, Inside Independence Day. This is a multimedia software package that delved into a behind the scenes look at the making of the film.
BBC Radio 1 also joined the promotion in a roundabout way, although this is not strictly true as the BBC are a non-advertising entity paid for by the British public.
Anyway, Radio 1 broadcast an hour-long show entitled, Independence Day UK. I never heard the original broadcast but discovered it in my local HMV as it was later released on audio cassette.
According to the BBC Genome project (archived listings of all BBC broadcasts), the show was broadcast at 7pm on Sunday,August 4th in 1996 (repeated on Christmas Day that same year) and described as,
“The dramatic climax to Radio l’s UFO-watch project with Nicky Campbell and Patrick Moore.”
The programme itself is split into two distinct parts. The first half, as the description notes, pretends to be a live broadcast from an RAF E3-D, the British version of the famous American AWAC early warning aircraft.
The live broadcast is being presented by Nicky Campbell, a famous radio and TV presenter who currently works on BBC Radio 5, and Sir Patrick Moore, the famous astronomer who passed away in 2012. This is supposedly the last show of Radio 1’s UFO Watch which has been taking place all week.
As soon as the programme begins, you’ll hear the alien invasion broadcast that David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum’s character) discovers in the film Independence Day.
The infamous first teaser trailer for 1996’s Independence Day
As the half hour progresses, Patrick Moore, talking to various observatories around the world, makes the same discovery to a lesser degree. This alien transmission is not coming from light years away but from our own moon. They discover soon after that the transmission is also getting closer.
Just like the film, the show describes how this is the mothership and hundreds of smaller craft are launching and heading towards the major population centres of the Earth.
Amongst all this is the hustle and bustle of the RAF scrambling their forces to try and protect Great Britain when its discovered that one of these smaller UFOs is heading for London. The main RAF character is played by Colin Baker who most will remember as the sixth incarnation of Doctor Who.
The first half of the story comes to a natural close when a reporter live from atop of BBC House in London describes the events as the UFO fires its weapon and a wall of fire spreads its way across the country’s capital, destroying everything in its path.
The second half of Independence Day UK is a traditional audio story with actors, music and sound effects to help you become immersed into the action.
The story follows a group of RAF Tornado pilots, one of whom is played by 1980’s pop star Toyah Wilcox, as they try to take down the huge alien spacecraft. Just like the film, they discover that the alien ship has an invisible force field protecting it and so do all the fighter craft that emerge from within.
The rest of the story also includes very British situations such as the royal family being evacuated by a Greater London Radio traffic reporter’s helicopter and Patrick Moore fighting an alien in hand to hand combat.
The story ends with the RAF Tornado squadron escorting a prototype fighter (with the strangest voice activated onboard computer) out of the United Kingdom on a mission to the middle east, where the pilot will meet with other survivors from around the world.
This finale is leading into the scene from the film where you see the British pilots listening to Morse code and discovering how to bring down the alien craft.
And that brings the audio drama to an end. While the story is a little slow to get going, it soon becomes a huge joy to listen to. I hadn’t listened to it in years as I no longer have the audio cassette but had found the drama on YouTube. It’s certainly a lot of fun and I couldn’t help listening with a huge silly grin on my face. You certainly can’t take it all seriously much like the film it’s based upon.
Independence Day UK is certainly a very different way to link some marketing into a major motion picture. I really enjoy the fact that is delivers a unique British perspective on an apocalyptic world event that in major motion blockbuster pictures is normally only seen from the American’s point of view.