2011, 120 Minutes, Directed by:
Carl Franklin, Greg Beeman
sci-fi TV shows dropping dead all over the place like Tauntauns in a Hothian ice
storm one desperately wants Falling Skies, TNT’s new science fiction show
executive produced by Steven Spielberg, to work . . .
The economic recession hasn’t
been good for science fiction on TV. There may be a need for pure escapism in
times of economic hardship, but sci-fi shows require bigger budgets than
“normal” TV shows. After all, it is much more expensive to film a series set
aboard the USS Enterprise than the single pub setting of, let’s say, Cheers.
Producers need to fork out for elaborate special effects, costumes and
This year has seen the demise
of several high-profile SF shows such as Caprica,
StarGate Universe. Sure, some of them may not
be missed – I haven’t heard anyone complain about the V remake biting the
dust and Caprica somehow never lived up to its brilliant pilot episode –
but the thought of there not being a single show on TV featuring a starship
captain is a depressing one to genre fans.
So along comes Falling Skies,
marking actor Noah Wyle’s return to the small screen six years after the demise
of ER. He is joined amongst others by Moon Bloodgood and Will Patton,
both of whom will be familiar to post-apocalyptic movie fans. Bloodgood starred
in Terminator Salvation and Patton
was the bad guy in Kevin Costner’s 1997 The Postman
That both of these similarly
themed movies underperformed at the box office probably bodes ill for Falling
Skies, which can be described as Terminator Salvation meets The
Postman or perhaps Terminator Salvation, but without the terminators
and with aliens instead.
Falling Skies is set in
the aftermath of a full-scale alien invasion and follows a group of human
survivors as they try to both avoid capture and fight the aliens at the same
"It's Terminator Salvation, but without the terminators
and with aliens instead!"
Wyle is a small-town history
teacher who goes on about smaller armies throughout history managing to defeat
larger opponents a lot, but somehow without managing to mention Vietnam. His
character has several sons, one of whom has been captured by the aliens and is
now under their mind control. Like many modern shows such as
Lost, StarGate Universe and
Jericho (another doomed sci-fi show),
Falling Skies has a myriad of characters while faceless extras mill around
in the background.
We never get to see the actual
invasion. Instead the show cleverly tells the story of the invasion as seen
through the eyes of children and their subsequent drawings. The accountants must
have loved this move by the screenwriters since it must have shaved a huge
chunk off the special effects budget!
isn’t only cash that is in short supply when it comes to sci-fi TV nowadays.
Imagination also seems to be in short supply. Falling Skies dully
regurgitates every alien invasion / post-apocalypse cliché in the screenwriter’s
handbook. Especially coming so short on the heels of the likes of
Battle: Los Angeles and
Skyline, Falling Skies comes across
as particularly derivative.
It is however how you
tell the tale and not the tale itself, right? In this department Falling
Skies also comes up short as the show seems resolutely determined not to
take any chances as, let’s say, SGU and Caprica did. Falling
Skies brings up some issues – military command vs. civilian rights and “oh,
isn’t it ironic that someone is invading the Americans for a change?” (that
Vietnam omission is quite telling). It however does nothing with any of this,
preferring to play it safe and focusing on the soap opera elements of the story.
Sure, you can argue
that SGU and Caprica both
failed because they were probably not mainstream enough for mass audiences, but
we say that if you are making a doomed SF show you might as well take a few
chances because, yes, we think Falling Skies is probably doomed too. We’d
be surprised if it makes a second season. It was simply not compelling or
interesting enough to make one go, “gosh, I’m definitely going to check out
(Signs aren’t too
hopeful for the upcoming Terra Nova, also executive produced by Steven
Spielberg, either. Judging from the trailer it looks set to be too much of a
soap opera and an unoriginal mix of Jurassic Park and
Avatar, the same mix which sinks Falling