Picks and Pans Review: Invasion

updated 02/27/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/27/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET)

Invasion arrived last fall with a badly timed ungainliness, like a Martian emerging from a spaceship with Ugg boots on its tentacled feet. The show, about a vast alien conspiracy touching down in a small town in coastal Florida, began with a hurricane. Unfortunately, this was right after Katrina. But in the months since, Invasion has taken hold as one of prime time's best dramas, period: a mysterious, densely nuanced show that creeps through a swamp of big issues like community and identity. Ooooh! The alien force has somehow claimed victims of the storm and transformed them into—what are they? Hybrids? Replicants? A headache for Homeland Security? The most thoughtful of these mutants, a doctor named Dr. Mariel Underlay, has struggled to decipher the point at which her original self stops and a million little pieces of ET DNA begin. Episode after episode, Kari Matchett has handled this struggle with delicate coolness. It's my favorite performance on any show.

One hitch: Invasion will be retreating for a month or so in late March, giving way to the new series The Evidence.

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