Summer TV Review-Falling Skies: Pilot

June 20, 2011

Steven Hawking was right. If aliens come to Earth they will be hostile. At least this is the case in Steven Spielberg’s Falling Skies that just aired tonight. Greetings nerds, Brandon here. I am here with The Sci-Fi Christian’s first post and review since the newly designed site and expansion into a blog.

Before I go into the show I need to set the stage with a bit of background on the show. Robert Rodat and Steven Spielberg conceived Falling Skies with Rodat writing the pilot script. The pilot was shot ages ago back in 2009 with the following episodes shot from July to November of 2010. Spielberg’s name is on this series just to plop people down in front of their televisions. Ahh, you gotta love marketing ploys. To give you an idea of who is running this show the co-producer of Falling Skies is writer-producer Mark Verheiden who comes from his work on Ron D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica and is slated to be a producer on The Dark Tower series coming soon. The creative group behind the show can be felt by way of what they have worked on in the past. You will see what I mean in a minute.

Falling Skies is about a rag-tag group of survivors of an alien invasion as they try to pick off the aliens one at a time and eek out a living in the post invasion world. The show starts six months after the alien invasion. We never see the invasion. I like this aspect of the show. We’ve seen that story already too many times. I also enjoy that it takes place in Massachusetts and not New York or L.A. Locations have exceedingly become a cliché these days.

In the beginning we meet Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), a former history professor who has lost his wife in the invasion and has found himself thrust into a leadership roll among a few hundred survivors who call themselves the Second Massachusetts. Tom has three sons one of which has gone M.I.A. The sons he has managed to keep in his sights are Matt, the youngest who is about seven or eight and Hal the older who looks about seventeen. Matt spends his days in a makeshift school and coloring pictures as he puts his feelings down on paper. As a strapping young lad, Hal is recruited to play war with the aliens with the rest of the able bodied men. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), a former pediatrician acts as the sole doctor in the group. She also finds herself acting as a child psychologist and butts heads with the military.

My initial impression of the show was that it is like The Walking Dead with aliens. This concept works for me. However the idea of a group of survivors of an apocalyptic event and a story about civilians vs. the military seemed borrowed from Battlestar Galactica. Not to mention the teenaged blonde “freedom fighter” in the show reeks of Starbuck. There was one shot in particular during a scene of action where she even looked like Katee Sackhoff.

Now let us talk aliens. In this universe there are two types of the nasty buggers. Skidders are spider looking things that stand about seven feet tall and Mechs, bipedal mech droids that shoot lasers. The aliens don’t talk at all. There is also no attempt to communicate with them. This is a good move. If aliens did exist we would probably be too dumb for their own good and they would just take us in as pets. The alien special effects are quite good for a TV budget. The aliens are a blend of both CG and practical methods by using puppets. It is nice to know that the use of puppets is not dead. Although there are a few shots that look a bit off. The alien’s base that looks like a huge oilrig reminds me of the mother ship in District 9 the way that it looms in the background of multiple shots.

Now for a few complaints: For a post apocalyptic world that has been through a war there seem to be an incredible amount of intact structures. This is the cost of shooting on location in real neighborhoods I guess. Another problem I have is the character Captain Weaver (Will Patton). He acts like he got all of his military experience from watching too may war movies even though his character apparently has seen years of action. Weaver also has a moment when he states that there are, “Too many people.” And yes there are. This story would work better if there were fewer characters to deal with. There are a lot of extras in this show. This show has all the token extras, an old couple, pregnant lady, and annoying kids among many others.

The teenagers in the show act like just like teenagers. They think they know everything and find themselves in the kind of high school drama they need to define a normal social life in the humdrum existence they are in now. For a while I hoped this was not going to be a show with pretty teenagers looking off into the distance with a pensive stare. There was one of these shots but my worry about this was soon forgotten. There is one teen I have to mention. The 13-year-old Jimmy does not seem realistic one bit. Even if it is war time, with all the able bodied men around why would military officers allow a 13-year-old to carry a gun, be called a solider, and go on night missions?

Throughout this two hour pilot the story becomes less about the aliens and more about the human condition during a time of war. It is the “in” thing now to concentrate on the characters. We see the same plot lines that Lost had with two groups set against each other trying to protect them and their own, again, a borrowed plot from a show that worked well.

In conclusion Falling Skies feels like TNT’s version of the first few episodes of season three of Battlestar Galactica when the colonists were fighting the Cylons on New Caprica. The show over all has less of a Walking Dead or Battlestar Galactica vibe but rather is more along the lines of Stargate Universe. This first season has a 10-episode arc. This means that it will be a lean enough story without the fat of a twenty-four-episode season. I know how long seasons annoy Ben. It does me too. This show is a pretty good something to watch over the summer without feeling like you have to commit too hard. Over all I look forward to next weeks episode and to see how this show grows. I give Falling Skies four out of five stars.

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2 comments on “Summer TV Review-Falling Skies: Pilot

  1. Brandon,

    Great first review, man! I have been looking forward to checking out this new series but have yet to find the time to watch the first episode. I, too, thought that the concept sounded eerily similar to The Walking Dead with aliens, but the trailers looked too good to pass it up. Can’t wait to see it!

  2. Palindrome Jul 7, 2011

    I like the show, but I feel that it doesn’t have enough meat to run only ten episodes for its first season. So few things happen in each episode and the characters (like in stargate universe) are pretty one-dimensional. I think they need at least fourteen or fifteen episodes to build themselves into something that I will come back for in a year.

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