Who wrote The Midwich Cuckoos book and how does it differ from the chilling Keeley Hawes adaptation?

The Midwich Cuckoos book is a sci-fi classic and those who haven't read it are in for some sinister storytelling in the new adaptation...

The Midwich Cuckoos book adaptation stars Keeley Hawes as Susannah Zellaby
(Image credit: Sky)

The Midwich Cuckoos book has been brought to life in the new adaptation starring Keeley Hawes and Max Beesly, introducing newcomers to this disturbing story. 

If you’ve already watched the recent Silent Witness ending and are looking for the next drama to race through this summer then The Midwich Cuckoos series has all the dark intensity and emotional moments you need. The new show is adapted from the sci-fi novel of the same name and last year it was announced that Line of Duty’s Keely Hawes was cast in a major role. Now The Midwich Cuckoos has finally landed and for anyone who hasn't read the book the strange events unfolding on screen will be just as surprising as they are gripping. 

But who wrote The Midwich Cuckoos book, how does it differ from the TV series and how can you watch the new adaptation? We reveal all about this sci-fi classic… 

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

Who wrote The Midwich Cuckoos book?

Avid-readers who’ve already enjoyed many of the best books of 2022, why not take a trip back in time and make your way through The Midwich Cuckoos book? Written by John Wyndham and published in 1957, The Midwich Cuckoos is one of his best-known works alongside The Day of the Triffids. 

John Wyndham is also the author of The Chrysalids, The Secret People, The Kraken Wakes and Chocky, amongst many other books. The new Sky adaptation of The Midwich Cuckoos brings his original plotline to life with a cast including Keeley Hawes as psychotherapist Dr Susannah Zellaby and Max Beesley as local police officer, DCI Paul Kirby.

The Midwich Cuckoos book plot explained

If you’ve yet to start the new Sky show and haven’t read The Midwich Cuckoos book plot then prepare yourself for some seriously unnerving moments. Often described as a sci-fi novel, John Wyndham’s 1957 book is set in the fictional English village of Midwich. One day all the inhabitants end up falling unconscious and when they awake, all of the women old enough to bear children are mysteriously pregnant. 

If that isn’t already downright creepy enough, things soon take an even weirder turn when they give birth to golden-eyed, blonde-haired children who learn and can communicate telepathically with each other. Eventually becoming known simply as the Children, they can also control the minds of the adults around them and are later looked after by Professor George Zellaby. 

The Midwich Cuckoos cast member playing one of the Children

(Image credit: Sky)

Though even he can’t stop the carnage that’s set to come as fires break out and when the adults turn on the Children, they use their abilities to force the villagers to harm themselves instead of them. It then emerges that the Children aren’t the only ones of their kind to arrive like this, with similar occurrences happening around in the world. 

With powers like theirs, it looks increasingly as if there’s no stopping these mysterious beings. And before long, Professor Zellaby is facing an incredibly difficult decision as he soon becomes forced to choose between the Children he’s come to know and humanity more generally…

How does The Midwich Cuckoos book differ from the TV series? 

Perhaps the most obvious and major difference between The Midwich Cuckoos book and that of the new TV show surrounds the character of psychotherapist, Dr Susannah Zellaby played by The Bodyguard star Keeley Hawes. In John Wyndham’s original book Susannah isn’t Susannah at all - instead the psychotherapist character is named George Zellaby, who is keen to uncover the truth behind the village’s disturbing situation and the mysterious children. 

Although the characters’ roles in the novel and show are very similar, the decision to create Dr Susannah Zellaby for the show was a very deliberate one. With this switch-up, The Midwich Cuckoos writer David Farr revealed to Express.co.uk (opens in new tab) that he’d hoped to make the series more suited to a contemporary audience. 

The Midwich Cuckoos starring Keeley Hawes

(Image credit: Sky)

"It became really clear to me when I started to adapt it that there's a big shift needed for a modern audience", he explained. "The story is basically about women getting pregnant and yet, somehow, it's so male as a book.”

David went on to reflect that this “big shift” didn’t just occur on screen as he continued, “So a big shift across from the male to the female started and, me being the writer is a bit weird of course, so female writers came on board.”

"And it was a conscious thing, we really wanted to find a director as well as a lead actress, as it was a male role, the Keeley Hawes one, that would enhance that,” he added. “Then Alice [Director Alice Troughton] came into the room just adoring John Wyndham and with that female gaze, without us even saying anything. It was completely front and center of the ideas. It was a no-brainer, she was by far the best person we could have possibly chosen."

The Midwich Cuckoos cast playing the Children

(Image credit: Sky)

Though this particular change wasn’t the only difference that fans of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos book might have spotted pretty quickly. The Midwich children themselves have a very distinct appearance in the book, creating a sense of their otherworldliness and setting them apart from the parents who raised them. 

In the book they are understood to be all blonde, with golden eyes and pale shining skin. In contrast, The Midwich Cuckoos show deviated from making their children have this distinct appearance. The showrunners also went on to have the mothers bond more closely with the children than in the book. 

The Midwich Cuckoos adaptation cast

(Image credit: Sky)

Discussing this with Express.co.uk, the Director, Alice Troughton shared, “David has a brilliant line, 'love will kill you', and it was very important for us that the mothers bonded with their children.”

"They had the babies and gave birth and had this euphoric feeling of a newborn and that bond was pended on by the cuckoos in order for them to thrive,” she said. "I think that was a really clever, brilliant updating of the story.”

This also ties in brilliantly with the book and show’s concept of having a “cuckoo in the nest” of sorts, with the alien children being raised by loving mothers. 

The Midwich Cuckoos cast member as one of the Children

(Image credit: Sky)

As a more minor change from The Midwich Cuckoos book, the TV adaptation also makes the fictional Midwich a commuter town rather than an isolated village. Whilst characters such as DCI Paul Kirby (played by Max Beesley) and Zoe and Sam (Aisling Loftus and Ukweli Roach) have been added in.

But although there are several major differences between the novel and the show, the main storyline remains largely faithful to the John Wyndham classic.

What channel is The Midwich Cuckoos on?

For anyone yet to delve into the sinister goings-on in The Midwich Cuckoos adaptation, then the place to head is Sky Max or streaming service NOW in the UK. And for thriller fans who loved binge-watching their way through to the Chloe BBC ending and Netflix’s Pieces of Her ending to discover the truth, there’s some seriously good news.  

All seven episodes of The Midwich Cuckoos TV show are now available to watch, meaning there’s no agonizing wait week by week. Instead, whether you’re a fan of the original The Midwich Cuckoos book or a newcomer to the adaptation, you can immerse yourself in the brilliant storytelling of the new series whenever it suits you. 

A US broadcaster is yet to be announced and fans based in Australia can enjoy the entire series of The Midwich Cuckoos on Stan. 

The Midwich Cuckoos starring Keely Hawes and Max Beesley

(Image credit: Sky)

If you’re on vacation you won't be able to watch The Midwich Cuckoos as you normally would at home due to regional restrictions. Luckily there’s an easy solution and you can use a VPN to continue watching this hit drama. This is a handy bit of software that changes your IP address so that you can access on-demand content or live TV just as if you were at home.

Our sister site, TechRadar, has tested all of the major VPN services and they rate ExpressVPN (opens in new tab) as the absolute best. They say, “It’s compatible with all of your devices, supports most streaming services, and ranks among the fastest. You can even install it on devices like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox, and PlayStation. So for a one-stop-shop, you can’t go wrong with Express.”

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Ranked among one of the fastest VPN providers, this risk-free service is also compatible with all of your devices. Enjoy access to almost any streaming service, and if you don't like it there's a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you've never installed a VPN before, don't worry, it's quick and easy. Just follow these three steps:


  1. Download and install the VPN following ExpressVPN's easy-to-follow instructions.
  2. Once you've installed your VPN, open the app and select your server location as anywhere in the UK.
  3. With your VPN installed and server location set to UK, you can now watch The Midwich Cuckoos online. 

VPN disclaimer

(Image credit: Future)

And if you've already made your way through to the dramatic series finale, then why not enjoy the equally intense twists and turns of The Midwich Cuckoos book to immerse yourself fully in the world of John Wyndham's original story?

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.