[Some Spoilers Below]
There’s so little good sci-fi on TV anymore (the “SyFy” channel lost me at the 10th anaconda movie they produced) that when a decent series comes along, you want to get up out of your Enterprise captain’s chair and cheer them on.
TNT’s Falling Skies has a heavyweight production team, a monster budget, and just the right mix of terror and wonder that all good sci-fi shows should have. It’s an ancient story line but why reinvent the wheel if it isn’t creaking?
The series begins in medias res with the aliens well on their way to wiping humans off the face of the earth. The beasts are suitably icky and, well, beastly — especially since they capture children as slave laborers, controlling them by putting an icky wormlike critter that attaches itself to the backs of the kids and makes them into automatons.
As you might expect, there is a resistance — poorly equipped and hardly a real soldier among them. The main character, Tom Mason (played by Noah Wylie), is an ex-military history professor whose knowledge of war doesn’t impress hard-bitten Captain Weaver (Will Patton), but whose respect he is gaining as his missions get ever more dangerous. Mason has a kid in one of the alien labor brigades and most of the first three episodes revolved around his efforts to get him back.
Mason became a hero in Episode Two when he actually captured an alien (called “Skitters”) alive. And herein lies the seeds of the show’s possible destruction. Mason’s putative love interest is Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood). While Dr. Michael Harris (Stephen Weber) is busy trying to dissect the creature, Anne wants to study the beast. Who knows, maybe it has feelings? Actually, she has a good idea — getting to know the enemy — but the way she goes about it is a little strange. She gives the beastie water. She talks nicey-nicely to it. She asks it what it wants from us. She actually protects it from Harris who sees a lab rat, while Anne sees…what? A kindred spirit? You get the feeling that she sees the Skitter as a minority.
Meanwhile, the Skitter doesn’t know what to think. Not enamored of Anne’s obvious anatomical gifts, he can’t ply her with nylons, perfume, and other stuff with which GI’s would bribe their guards in WW II movies. So he tries the next best thing: He makes a grab for her and tries to eat her.
Anne gets away but later, Harris isn’t so lucky. The Beastie grabs the doc as he is trying to prevent one of the Skitter’s former slaves from releasing it and makes literal mincemeat of him.
The death of Harris is an excellent sign. Any series that kills off major characters a couple of weeks in promises bigger and better surprises later. As Stephen King once responded to the question, “How would you summarize your novels?” — “Everybody dies,” said the author — the less secure the audience feels about characters they care about, the more entertaining the shows.
But the problem is Anne. It appears there is a possibility that Anne will attempt to form an alien-human bond of some kind. Maybe we’re just misunderestimating each other. Maybe we look as bad to the aliens as they do to us. Maybe we’re just not on the same communications wavelength and with a little effort, we could be great friends.
The “lesson?” Just because we look different doesn’t mean we aren’t all the same underneath. True, Ann eventually killed the Skitter with her bare hands (the creatures have a weak spot on the roof of their mouths). But this is Ted Turner’s network, and Noah Wylie is a madcap uber-liberal (as is Moon Bloodgood and Producer Steven Spielberg). I just got a sinking feeling that PC was going to rear its ugly head at some point in the future when I saw Anne ego-stroking the Skitter.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a first class series TV show ruined its run by immersing itself in politically correct dogma. Even Jack Bauer was not immune to the siren call of PC nonsense. So it wouldn’t be surprising if Fallen Skies fell into an open pit of left wing lunacy and multicultural — dare I say — universal platitudes and plot lines.
I hope I’m wrong.