Review: Falling Skies 1×1-1×2

Seen Jericho, Earth 2 or War of the Worlds? Then you've seen this

falling skies, steven spielberg, tnt, noah wyle, tnt, skitters, moon bloodgood, scifi shows, sci-fi shows, sci fi shows, aliens

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, TNT
In Canada: Wednesdays, 10pm, Superchannel. Starts July 6
In the UK: Tuesdays, 9pm, FX. Starts July 5

There’s something about knowing that Steven Spielberg is the exec producer of a TV show that means you know pretty much exactly what you’re going to get. It started with Earth 2, in which a lot of very dull people, all by themselves, have to survive against the odds and face slightly scary aliens while looking after their wee little moppets, who are just ever so endearing. That was pretty much the template.

Now we have Falling Skies, in which 90% of the world’s population is killed by aliens, leaving a group of very dull people, including Noah Wylie in The Librarian mode, stuck in Boston, having to survive against the odds and face slightly scary aliens while looking after their wee little moppets, who are just so endearing.

Are there any differences, you might ask? Well, with the likes of Greg Beeman and Mark Verheiden on board, you’d suspect a hint of Heroes to the whole thing and you’d be right – out of a cast of about one hundred men, there are roughly three women, two of them blonde.

Here’s a trailer for Falling Skies, aka War of the Worlds meets Earth 2.

FALLING SKIES opens in the chaotic aftermath of an alien attack that has left most of the world completely incapacitated. In the six months since the initial invasion, the few survivors have banded together outside major cities to begin the difficult task of fighting back. Each day is a test of survival as citizen soldiers work to protect the people in their care while also engaging in an insurgency campaign against the occupying alien force.

At the center of the series is Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), a Boston history professor whose family has been torn apart. His wife was killed in the initial attack, and one of his three sons has been captured. Determined to get his son back and to ensure the safety of his other two sons, Tom must put his extensive knowledge of military history to the test as one of the leaders of the resistance movement known as the 2nd Mass, because of their location in Boston, Mass. They are constantly trying to gain intelligence about the aliens in order to one day outsmart and overtake them and hopefully rebuild their lives.

Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation) co-stars as Anne Glass, a pediatrician who works with the surviving children to help them cope with the traumatic upheaval in their lives. Will Patton (Armageddon, TNT’s Into the West) plays a fierce leader of the resistance, Weaver. The series also stars Drew Roy (Secretariat) as Hal, Tom’s oldest son and a growing fighter in the resistance movement; Maxim Knight (Brothers & Sisters) as Matt, Tom’s youngest son; Connor Jessup (The Saddle Club) as Ben, Tom’s son who was captured by aliens; and Seychelle Gabriel (Weeds) as Lourdes, an orphaned teenager who helps Anne in the group’s makeshift medical clinic. Colin Cunningham (Living in Your Car) is John Pope, the leader of an outlaw motorcycle gang and Sarah Carter (Shark) is Margaret, a wary survivor of Pope’s gang.

FALLING SKIES focuses on the resilience of the survivors and their determination to maintain their humanity when all else has been destroyed. It is a tale of endurance, commitment and courage in which everyday people are called upon to become heroes. They may be outmatched, outnumbered and outgunned, but nothing can beat the human spirit. Most of all, the series is about the ties that bind people together in the most difficult of circumstances.

The aliens in the series are mighty, mysterious and merciless. They are highly intelligent and use military-like tactics, which makes them an overwhelming force against the 2nd Mass. There are two types of aliens that the human survivors have named Skitters and Mechs. Combining live action and special visual effects, the Skitters have spider-like bodies and incredible strength and agility. The deadly, robotic Mechs stand upright and can shoot bullets from their arms. The aliens control captured children, like Tom’s son Ben, through bio-mechanical harnesses but have yet to reveal their ultimate plan for them.

FALLING SKIES is executive-produced by Steven Spielberg, along with DreamWorks Television heads Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank, Graham Yost (Justified, The Pacific) and screenwriter Robert Rodat. Rodat, who earned an Oscar® nomination for his screenplay for Saving Private Ryan, wrote the pilot from an idea he co-conceived with Spielberg. Mark Verheiden (Heroes, Battlestar Galactica) and Greg Beeman (Heroes, Smallville) are co-executive producers. The pilot was directed by Carl Franklin (One False Move, Out of Time).

Is it any good?
It’s not awful, but there’s almost nothing original about it. While I’ve made comparisons with Earth 2, if you’ve seen Jericho then you’ve basically already seen Falling Skies.

The first two episodes are basically running around and people arguing with each other about who’s in charge, while very little of any real excitement happens. The aliens come in two varieties: six-legged insecty things and two-legged robots (perhaps the only interesting thing about the show is the hint there’s a reason for this difference). None of them appear clever enough to have invented infra-red goggles, night vision or anything more powerful than bullets, despite having mastered those tricky “faster than light” travel and “taking over the entire planet in just a few weeks” skills already. As a result, our plucky band of heroes is free to run around the countryside having entirely unexciting fights that would have got them killed when faced against even a small group of humans.

Indeed, while the first episode is filled with the tedium that is backstory exposition and arguments, the second episode perks up when another group of humans turns up and easily outsmarts our guys with bows and arrows. Thank heavens the aliens didn’t have them, huh?

Noah Wylie’s character is a former history professor who talks about past wars and the American Revolution a lot, and even the other characters wish he wouldn’t. WIll Patton is the same old gruff manly man he’s been playing for years in shows like Numb3rs (I preferred him VR.5). Moon Bloodgood is there to represent the ‘civilians’, be irritating and ensure the blonde count isn’t too obvious. She does at least get some characterisation, which the other two main women don’t get beyond a couple of sentences (a fourth Catholic woman turns up just to be idiotic as far as I can see), but she’s too insipid and bland to make you want to care for her. Indeed, the only interesting characters are Sarah Carter’s bad girl turned good and Colin Cunningham (every Canadian-filmed show you’ve ever seen, including Stargate and jPod) as the literate gang leader our heroes bump into.

Falling Skies has obviously had a lot of money thrown at it, despite its Canadian location shooting, but has so little new, remarkable or interesting going for it that you actually wish the insect aliens had managed to wipe out the remaining 10% of the human race to spare us this.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.