It's hard being a fan of science fiction. It's
respectable to be a horror buff, and
fantasy has becomes well respected since Harry Potter and especially Game of Thrones, but when someone
mentions that they like SF, the statement is usually met with surprised
snickers or back-handed compliments like "you don't look like it!" What makes it worse is that some of the
SF TV series seem to get cancelled way too soon (Firefly,
Sarah Connor Chronicles, Jericho, etc.)
while other mediocre shows get renewed, just reinforcing the popular
all SF is juvenile or silly. Case in
point: Falling Skies a
potentially cool show that misses the mark on
several fronts but will start airing new shows this June.
It's been six months since the aliens invaded, and in that
time the armies of the world have been destroyed along with much of
humanity. Mankind has been reduced to
small groups of people clinging together for protection against the
six-legged creatures and their bipedal robotic warriors dubbed
"skitters." These creatures are doing
giant tower-like structures but their purpose is not clear. One thing is for certain, they're seeking out
human children to use for slave labor after making them docile by
"harness" to their back, an alien device that forces metal spikes into
victim's spinal column. If they're
removed, the host dies.
As the series begins a large contingent of survivors is
being broken up. It's been determined
that the skitters can detect groups of humans 600 and larger, so
300 people, 200 civilians and 100 'fighters,' are being split off and
separating. The Massachusetts 2nd, is one
group and it's second in command is Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) who used to
history professor (specializing in US and military history) serving
gruff Captain Weaver (Will Patton).
The 2nd Mass walks for days and eventually
discovers a school that they make their base.
From here Weaver sends out parties to gather supplies. Tom, his oldest son Hal (Drew Roy), Hal's
girlfriend Karen (Jessy Schram), and a couple of other fighters make up
such group, and while scavenging for food they discover a group of
kids working for the skitters, including Tom's missing son Ben (Connor
Jessup). He wants to launch a rescue
Weaver doesn't want to risk the men, especially when obtaining Ben
them any good since they can't remove the harness.
Things change when a doctor arrives who has
figured out how to take the harnesses off without killing the children,
theory. He's never tested it, but Tom is
willing to risk it. All he has to do is
rescue his child from an alien stronghold.
This show is very derivative of other SF programs that have
come before, and that's too bad. It's a
good concept, post-apocalyptic shows are nearly always interesting, but
one falls short in part because it has all been done before, and better. It's like the mixed together parts from Battlestar Galactica, Jerico, Walking Dead, Alien
Nation, and War of the Worlds,
but only the bad parts. They've left out the complexity, mystery, and
characters that drove the best of those shows.
One of the most disappointing aspects of this show is the
lack of character development. All of
the people start out as flat stereotypes and they pretty much end the
that way too. That's because everyone is
defined by two character traits at most.
Tom is the devoted father who wants to do the right thing,
Weaver is the
gruff leader who has a soft spot that he is desperate to hide, the hot
doctor is strong but vulnerable. You get
the picture. They're all characters
we've seen before. Because of that
there's no reason to care for them or really become engaged to what
So it's not a character driven piece. That's
fine if the plots are interesting and
they create a detailed, intricate world that unravels over the course
series. Unfortunately that doesn't
happen either. The world of Falling
Skies doesn't make sense on
several levels. Take the skitters: a machine gun blasting away has almost no
effect on them from 10 yards away, but a shotgun blast to the head from
away kills them. What?
How does that work? Several times
characters will say "you have
to get close" but it's never explained why a .45 will take off a
skitter leg at
close range but a high powered rifle won't at a moderate distance.
There doesn't seem to be much fear of skitters attacking
either. The survivors walk around
outside during the day and they go searching for food/supplies on loud
motorcycles. And there's 300 of them
holed up in an old school. They'd
generate a fair amount of waste/garbage, so it should be easy for the
find them since they aren't moving. And
the skitters do want to kill humans, apparently. Any
stockpile of food or supplies that they
discover they don't destroy. Instead
they plant guards to wait, and wait, and wait, hoping that some humans
show up so they can kill them. What? That seems incredibly man-power
intensive. And why are only some of the
adults 'fighters?' They show several
able bodied males that are just civilians.
Wouldn't a condition of being in the group be that you had to
you could? Why do they seem to have an
infinite supply of ammunition? Where do
they get the food to feed 300 people a day, and why is it that they
oatmeal and lima beans? I could go on,
but you get the point.
The plots for the shows are full of holes too. A
band of bandits captures a woman, spends
months gang raping her, and then they give her a gun and tells her to
some prisoners. What were they
thinking?? That she'd gotten over the
rape thing? The significant other of one
of the main characters in captured in an early episode, and it's not a
deal. The guy pretty much just shrugs
and forgets about her. Gee, that's
They go for a lot of predictable plots too. There
is the subplot about the needs of the
civilians vs. those of the military, (which was done much better on
story about the one's obligation to one's family compared with his
to the community, and of course the tried and true "we have to stand
or we'll fall separately" plot when the civilians baulk at a military
It's not all bad however.
The special effects are passable, and there is some modicum of
in several episodes. The battle scenes,
though often over too quickly, are well staged and entertaining too. The acting is very good too, with Noah Wyle
breathing more life into his role than I would have thought possible. Will Patton is also excellent as the grim and
gruff leader, and Colin Cunningham, who plays a gang leader, is the
realistic and interesting character on the show.
The program does get better as it progresses too, but just
not good enough or fast enough. While
watching this, I kept returning to the fact that could be a very good
if there were some non-trivial changes.
It's too bad that it isn't.
The first season's ten episodes arrive on two Blu-ray discs
housed in a custom pressboard case. The
two discs are overlapping, which I really don't like, and the case
a bit flimsy.
The show comes with a nice 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that
packs quite a wallop. The subwoofer gets
a good workout during some of the short battle scenes which is nice to
see in a
TV show. The rears aren't used as much
as I would like, but when they are employed it works well.
The dialog is mixed well with the sound
effects with neither one overwhelming the other. Overall
this is a very nice sounding
The 1.78:1 1080p image is quite good. There's
a high level of detail present and
fine lines are strong, even in dark areas.
The earthy color scheme comes through accurately and the blacks
and inky. There is some noticeable
banding in a few scenes, and there's a little grain that's most
intentional in a few spots, but aside from that it's a nice looking set.
The series comes with a couple of okay extras, though
nothing too exciting. First off are
several commentary tracks to various episodes.
The video extras include two very short behind-the-scenes
featurettes, The Unknown and The Second Mass. Both of
run about three minutes each and are pretty cursory.
I would have liked a nice half hour docu
instead. There's also the Falling Skies
Panel from the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con which has the cast discussing
series for a little over 20 minutes. If
you wondered how they made the skitters, there's a four minute
the CGI that went into their creation too.
Exclusive to Blu-ray is a look at the comic book from Dark Horse
fleshes out the series a bit. Finally
there's a sneak peek at season two that I'm sure fans will be eager to
While this isn't a total waste, it's not nearly as good as
it could be. The show has a lot of
promise, but the trite plots, paper-thin characters, and poorly thought
aliens mar this show too much to recommend it.
I wasn't sorry I watched the whole season however.
It's only 10 episodes long and it does
improve slightly as it goes along. SF
fans who are looking for anything to watch might want to give this a rental.