‘Falling Skies’ (TNT) is the first of two TV science fiction dramas to appear on our screens this year that were part produced by Steven Spielberg. The other show ‘Terra Nova’ (FOX) should appear on our screens in the autumn on Sky1. This is an important time for science fiction drama as the ending of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ (BSG) and the cancellation of ‘Stargate Universe’ has left us without many flagships shows.

‘Falling Skies’ is shown every Tuesday evening on the FX network at 9pm and two of the ten episodes in the first series have been aired so far.

The premise of the show is that Earth has been devastated by a massive alien attack which employed a smart bomb (like the electro magnetic pulse bomb in ‘Jericho’) to knock out all the satellites, computer networks and radios. Most of the military hardware has been wiped out and the major cities around the world have been hit.

The first episode begins six months after that event. The decision not to start with the arrival of the alien spacecraft and the subsequent attack may turn out to be a smart move as it would have cost a lot of money and still could not have matched that shown by ‘Independence Day’.  It also allows the writers to concentrate on a small group of people without showing the President, NASA, the United Nations and the rest. They may find it useful to cover some of the back story later.

The motives for the alien attack have not yet been established although the aliens are massacring adults and taking children captive. The children are then exposed to an alien harness (similar to ‘Alien’ bur attached to the back).

The show is fronted by the likeable Noah Wylie (Carter in ‘ER’) playing Tom Mason who has lost his wife to the aliens. Mason has three sons, one of which has been captured and harnessed. The intriguingly named Moon Bloodgood (‘Daybreak’, ‘Journeyman’ and ‘Burn Notice’) has been drafted in as a medic and helps him look after the youngest son and you sense a budding romance further down the line. Will Patton, who has done a lot of TV and film, is one of the military guys in charge. I would say that it is not a particularly well-known cast at the moment.

The aliens (referred to as ‘Skidders’) are mostly insect-like with six legs but they have some cybernetic robots called ‘Mecs’ that are rather like the centurions in BSG. Some of the insects look like the critters from ‘Starship Troopers’. It does not look as though there is going to be much chance of communication with the Aliens and this may detract from the story – maybe there will be some kind of telepathic contact at some point. The aliens have created structures from which they operate, looking for children and killing adults in traps and there are many alien ships patrolling the skies.

The humans have formed resistance groups (reminiscent of the future in ‘Terminator’) and are constantly moving around, foraging for food and arms and fighting where they can. The group which Mason has joined is based in the Eastern seaboard somewhere around New England. Cities and towns have been ravaged so there are cars and wreckage everywhere.

Mason was a history professor who has a lot of knowledge of military campaigns and you begin to see arguments developing between the civilian and the military. This theme is used a quite lot in American drama, particularly Stargate SG1. Mason ends up second in charge of the smallest unit of the resistance which is ‘300’ (consisting of 100 military and 200 civilian personnel).

Youngsters are helping in the resistance, acting as scouts using motorbikes and are also armed. One of the scouts is played by Drew Roy who is Mason’s oldest son at 17 years old. They discover that Mason’s ‘middle’ son is still alive and one of their goals is to rescue him and remove the harness. In attempting to grab some arms and ammunition from an armoury they end up in a fight with some renegade criminals who have formed a smaller group and are just living for themselves.

I have enjoyed watching the show so far and will likely continue to the end. Overall the show is tense and full of danger which I like. Anyone like me who has enjoyed ‘Jericho’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ will probably like this type of show and it has been already picked up for a second series by TNT.

No dates have yet been announced for the DVD release either in the USA or the UK.

Paul (The TV Drama Club)

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