OpinionReviewsTelevision & Film

FALLING SKIES Is the New "V"

When I first got the word that TNT was developing this new show called “Falling Skies”, and that it was about humans fighting off an alien invasion, I thought “What? Again?”

Over the past decade or so (and maybe going back even farther than that), we’ve seen countless retreads of this same idea. So much so, that it’s become a pastiche, a caricature of itself. INDEPENDENCE DAY was probably the worst offender, with other variations on the theme coming from BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, “Battle of Los Angeles” (yes, two different movies about the same kind of thing…), “V”, “V: The Final Battle”, the series “V”, and then variations on the “aliens among us” meme with DISTRICT 9, “Alien Nation”, “The Event”, and on and on and on…

How many times has this been done? The original “V” miniseries wasn’t the first, and was certainly not the last, but “Falling Skies” is its heir. And here’s why:

It takes the original idea of an alien invasion and really thinks through what would happen.

In the opening minutes of the pilot, we learn that the invaders wiped out the infrastructure first – governments, military, first responders, police, fire… all gone. So there’s a rational explanation as to why ordinary citizens have taken up arms.

And give that there’s only ten episodes in this season (with TNT already talking about renewal), “Falling Skies” doesn’t have a lot of time to get to it. On the flip side of that, however, the show doesn’t sacrifice character for action, something the re-make of “V” failed to grasp.

“nuV” also neglected to take into consideration the importance of story. A good cast does not make a good show if you don’t have good writing. “Falling Skies” gets that, at least in the episodes we’ve seen so far. The writers seem to know that the audience has to warm up to the characters, and the story has to move forward while introducing concepts and plot threads that will carry through the season.

Noah Wyle stars as Professor Tom Mason, a character very reminiscent of his Librarian character with his ability to recall various historical facts at the drop of a hat. Mason, a widower, has three boys, one of whom has been captured by the aliens. This “aliens need the kids” bit looks to be a major arc, and from the first few episodes, it seems to be one of the biggest mysteries for the humans to solve.

Wyle brings just the right amount of “I can’t believe this is happening” realism to the character, although his spouting historical facts got a little overdone in the pilot. We get it. He’s a history professor. Other than this little tiny bit, I like the character.

Moon Bloodgood is Dr. Anne Glass, a pediatrician and the only doctor the resistance group has. It’s a departure for Bloodgood, who’s played the tough chick plenty of times. Glass is a softer character, although no less spirited and determined.

It’s a far cry from her role in TERMINATOR: SALVATION, and she’s indicated that she’s enjoying the difference. And although there are a few sparks between Glass and Mason (there’s a pun in there somewhere…), don’t expect anything to burn bright this season. It’s about getting the story moving, and then see what happens with the characters as they settle into a second 10-episode set.

After getting past the nagging notion that Drew Roy looks too old to play Noah Wyle’s oldest son, I was able to enjoy the show. It’s solid. The writing is good. The acting is good. I like that the characters have room to breathe and settle into the story. And the pace of the story is just right – not too rushed (yes, “V” I’m looking at you) and not too spread out that you feel like they’re filling time.

Overall, “Falling Skies” is definitely one worth watching, especially if you want to see how the whole alien-resistance thing could be done right.

[Official “Falling Skies” web site]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

4 thoughts on “FALLING SKIES Is the New "V"

  • The picture of the blond on the motorcycle, to the left is a girl with her thumb over the barrel of her gun….that makes me laugh. Good article, I know what i’m getting into now when I watch the show.

    Reply
  • I notice that a lot of these genre shows do better when on a Cable Network versus basic one. (I dunno if I’m getting the distinction right… what I mean is TNT, SHOWTIME, HBO, AMC, etc vs. NBC, CBS, ABC, etc. )

    Obviously this is not counting the veterans like STARGATE, even though those went to SyFy to eventually. The regular networks’ seasons of 20+ episodes leaves a lot of room for filler and they’re always competing for prime slots, so 2-3 weeks of bad ratings is enough for the network to cancel.

    Where as on cable, the seasons are shorter, each episode is longer, therefore forcing the writers to move the story along and not put in a buncha filler episodes (SUPERNATURAL Season 6).

    Reply
    • Yes, it seems cable offerings have a longer shelf-life, a better chance to find an audience.

      I think there are a variety of factors involved, most notably the expectations on the part of the networks that shows should be getting 17-20 million viewers. Those days are gone, and once the suits realize that, then we might see the broadcast networks open up to the idea that shows don’t have to last 22 episodes.

      Noah Wyle rightly points out, that with a shorter season, the writers are more focused in their story-telling, and there’s less chance of the entire plot being diluted because you have to stretch everything out over 22-26 episodes. When “Chuck” got an extension, the producers decided to do a 6-episode mini-arc rather than milk the story they already had in place.

      Reply
      • I agree completely. MAD MEN’s been running with such a more modest ratings score than what broadcast networks expect from a pilot. Yet look at how well THE WALKING DEAD did with a debut season of only 6 episodes. Even with a second season debuting a year later, it doesn’t do anything to take away from the fans and viewers… however shows on broadcast networks are often hurt beyond repair by in season delays alone.

        Which is another reason that I believe any possible super-hero orientated shows (as always discussed on the interwebs) should be pitched to cable networks than broadcast.

        Reply

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