When Steven Spielberg slaps his name on a project, you'll do well to pay attention – The Berg doesn't just go around randomly applying his beard of approval to any old TV show. So the fact that Spielberg is an executive producer on The Whispers – available to watch now on demand – which is the latest American import to arrive on these shores with a buzz, means it's time to put your ear to the ground and start listening: just what is The Whispers and why is everyone talking about it?
Sci-fi so good
Here's another name for you: Ray Bradbury. He's the author behind some of the most seminal and incendiary works of American science-fiction writing of the 20th century. Fahrenheit 451. The Martian Chronicles. Something Wicked This Way Comes. All classics of the genre. And then there's The Illustrated Man, a book of 18 short stories, one of which – Zero Hour – is what The Whispers is based on. So before you've even seen a single second of the show, you've got two titans of sci-fi involved, on the page and behind the camera.
What's the idea?
Lily Rabe (best known for American Horror Story) plays FBI child specialist Special Agent Claire Bennigan, who opens an investigation surrounding a group of children, all of which are seemingly party to a series of random accidents. We come to learn that each child is communicating with their own imaginary friend, an invisible alien entity called Drill. The alien makes the kids play “games” and rewards them if they do what he says. So far, so creepy. Bennigan finds that she shares a connection with the kids and with Drill that busts open the case of her missing husband.
The case continues spiralling out of control, getting more bizarre by the week, until the big picture is revealed: without spoiling any of the finer details, this thing goes all the way to the White House. The Whispers is a beguiling mix of X-Files creepiness and Stranger Things weirdness, with a dash of political intrigue and a soupçon of conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure. As bonkers as it is, you could never accuse it of being boring: The Whispers drip-feeds its info in the tradition of JJ Abrams, but it definitely goes big when it comes to twists and shock endings.
Needless to say, come the close of the final episode, you'll understand completely what it was that drew Steven Spielberg to lend his name to the project – it's positively Amblin-esque in its execution.
Who else is in it then?
The Whispers also stars Gilmore Girls star Milo Ventimiglia as Bennigan's absent husband Sean, ex-Hollyoaks alumnus Barry Sloane is our man in the White House and Kristen Connolly of Cabin In The Woods fame as his estranged wife and mother to daughter Minx, the key to the whole mystery. Minx is played by the supernaturally talented young actress Kylie Rogers, currently sharing the big screen with Will Smith in Collateral Beauty. Shows like this can live or die on the strength of their child performances, but like Stranger Things, The Whispers has nothing to worry about in that department: the kids are all suitably creepy but give fantastically understated performances.
Shout it out loud
With the competition so busy and audiences presented with so much choice, it's hard for a show to stay unpredictable – people like to stick with what they know. But The Whispers turns that idea on its head; although it shares tropes with other TV sci-fi series, like Spielberg's own Falling Skies, it does its best to stir up the genre week in week out. The result is a show that feels simultaneously familiar yet also unlike any other. Without a doubt The Whispers is a show that starts conversations: get in on the ground floor and start the whisper campaign yourself.
The Whispers is available to watch now. Find it in On Demand > Box Sets > Drama