Falling Skies: Season 1
Science fiction authors have been relying of the public fascination and even fear of extraterrestrial invasion for close to a century now. In one famous instance Orson Wells created public panic with a faux radio broadcast ‘covering’ a Martian invasion landing in the State of New Jersey. Throughout all these years this premise has served well as a stable in all forms of entertainment including television. In 1967 one of the most prolific and successful television production companies in history, ‘Quinn-Martin’ broadcasted a show that although it lasted only two season has found its way to becoming a cult classic exhibiting true endurance. It was about one man trying to fight against an alien invasion happing right under the noses of the people of the world. It was a sneaky plot to take over our world done with infiltration and deceit. Even through the McCarthy era communist paranoid was two decades in the past the continued cold war persisted heightening or fear of Russian agents working among us towards the destruction of our way of life.
Now over forty years later once again our little blur planet is coveted by alien forces from beyond stars. This time they do not come cloaked in anonymity brutally attacking us in their true, unearthly form with weapons bourn of technology vastly superior to our own. The series, ‘Falling Skies’ doesn’t concern itself with the details of their invasion or how the almost entirely subjugated mankind. In the first episode we have already been defeated leaving only small pockets of resistance struggling to regain the control of our plant. The series follows a band of freedom fighters greatly outmatched but desperate to strike every possible blow then can over our extraterrestrial oppressors. In many ways the look and feel of this show is highly reminiscent of a classic MGM movie from the ‘Bray Pack’ era of the eighties. Replaced the rag tag group of high school students fighting the overwhelming forces of the Soviet Union, a small group of human refugees engage in hit and run tactics against out strange conquerors. The analogy works on every level; this little group is as much of s treat to the aliens as a squad of teen were against a global super power but much like those ‘wolverines’ in the heart land of America, this group can not consider failure or capitulation feasible; this is a fight for the survival of our world.
In the first episode we find a small group of people eking out a fugitive life in a place not all that long ago was known as Massachusetts. The regions that once lead the way for a new nation’s independence is currently the site of a new revolution not against oppression from across the ocean but to liberate our species from a far more deadly menace. The structural hierarchy of these freedom fights was constructed along the lines of the original revolutionary American army; small units scattered across the landscape doing whatever they can to deter their enemy. The conquest of our planet came swiftly with the human forces impotent against the insect like invaders in their huge engines of destruction hovering in our skies. Six months after the fall of humanity normally meek Professor Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) finds himself second in command of the 2nd Massachusetts militia nominally garrisoned just outside Boston. Only a few months prior Tom was a history professor at Boston University. His knowledge of the revolutionary War was just the basis of a dusty curriculum but currently such understanding of history might be critical to forming a strategy a helping to execute the tactics that oppose the aliens. The commander of the 2nd Mass, Dan Weaver (Will Patton), finds Tom a pain and an armature but he is useful both with his historical perspective and his way of dealing with the others in the unit and civilians under their protection. The enemy presents in two forms; the biological six legged Skitters and their hunter/killer robotic minions, Mechs. If captured the hapless humans are fitted with some sort of a large biological device, harnesses. Attempt to remove it from its living host is excruciatingly painful and ultimately lethal.
Former civilian from professional to children have suddenly become combatants. Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) was a successful pediatrician until the alien bombs fell killing her husband and child. She now serves as the 2nd Mass combat physician and field surgeon. Tom has two sons, teenager Hal (Drew Roy) and youngest brother Matt (Maxim Knight). Matt serves the unit as a scout along with his girlfriend Karen Nadler (Karen Nadler) for the resistance going out to track the movement of the alien forces. There is another son, Ben (Connor Jessup) but he is missing presumed harnessed by the Skitters. Early on the 2nd Mass runs across a civilian unit with some criminal element nominally lead by the opportunistic John Pope (Karen Nadler). Normally he could be trusted but in this fight being human is all the requirement necessary for military conscription. He’s a criminal and criminal but resourceful and a natural leader. One on his unit who leaves to join the militia is Maggie (Sarah Carter), a pretty tattooed blonde who is fearless and determined. She is trying to distance herself from her former associations. There is little time for formal schooling and children must grow up fast. For example Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) had been a first year medical student but has to take of the slack for Anne as if she was already a doctor
The series is broadcast on TBS which is accumulating quite a reputation for exceptional original series programming. This is a brand new take on science fiction tropes. The details of the invasion are incidental, not pertinent to our enjoyment of the series. It is in that respect a kind of Macguffin. It gives the feel of a person look at the aliens. The how or why doesn’t impact the characters, they just want to survive and make this planet undesirable for their purpose, whatever that might be. This does tie the motivations seen by the humans here to the Revolutionary war or Vietnam. In both cases a small, defuse resistance could successfully impact the colonization intent of a vastly superior country. It is difficult to place this series into a nicely confined box labeled genre. It is a delightful mélange of story types. There are the undercurrents of the traditional resistance tale played out against the background of once reasonable people forced into the most unreasonable circumstances imaginable. The Sci-Fi aspects drive the story and direct it but it is human side of the equation that is fascinating. Tom is second in command of a military unit but first and foremost he is a human father intent on safely reuniting his family. The mystery of the Skitters and their formidable Mechs is woven through this intriguing tapestry but at its heart we relate through the ever present humanity contained here.