Spielberg’s Falling Skies Makes Alien Invasions Seem Familiar, Human

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TNT premiered Falling Skies, their new alien invasion show from producer Steven Spielberg and Robert Rodat (the writer behind Saving Private Ryan), at a panel on Friday afternoon that included the world premiere of the show’s first trailer as well as appearances from stars Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood, as well as writer and producer Mark Verheiden, and, well, it seemed more than a little familiar.

The trailer started with a child’s monologue over a montage of quick-cut scenes of aliens invading, things exploding and children’s drawings recapping the whole thing:

I was in school when the ships came… They were really big. They blew up the army bases, all the capitals, New York and Washington DC. Then they came. Millions of them. They didn’t want to be friends at all.

From there, another montage of scenes that would be old news to anyone who’s ever seen an alien invasion movie or television show before: The army man determined to fight back, the child wishing his family could be reunited, and Noah Wyle’s parental anguish giving way to as close to kicking ass as he can get, shooting barely-seen aliens while captions flashed up telling us that this was the event of the year. So far, so familiar… but to Wyle and Bloodgood, one fact separated this from so many other alien invasion fictions: Steven Spielberg.

“If you’re going to do an alien show, it’s nice to attach yourself to the coattails of Steven Spielberg,” Wyle told the audience when asking why he’d taken the role of former history professor turned leader of the human resistance Tom Mason, a fact that Bloodgood repeated later, when explaining what made the role different from previous roles in Terminator Salvation or other sci-fi shows and movies. And if you’re wondering what, exactly, Spielberg brings, then the answer seemed to be “humanity”; all of the panelists made a point of emphasizing how important the human element is to the show. As Verheiden said,

It’s really not a story about fighting aliens… This is not a technological-based show… This is about a group of people forced to gather, who never expected to raise arms, to fight back against an unstoppable foe.

The humanity will come not only from the relationship between Wyle’s character and Bloodgood’s, a widow called Ann Glass who lost her husband and child in the invasion – which will take place six months before the show begins, to reinforce the idea that this isn’t a show about special effects, apparently – but also the moral dilemmas the characters will face. Wyle told the audience “the line [the characters won’t cross] is in constant state of flux” while the characters struggle to rebuild society while staying alive. Wyle called the surviving humans “the architects of the next constitution,” adding that the series will ask what people should keep from current society when looking to rebuild everything again.

Wyle also talked about the importance of his character’s previous profession, saying that the show will draw on the lessons learned in real life insurgencies and revolutions, and that the original idea for the show was for it to be called Concord and be more explicitly paralleled to the American revolution, before creator Rodat decided that idea was too limiting for future episodes. Instead, the show – the first season of which will go into production soon – will have a broader and vaguer historical context, with that vagueness spilling into the motive of the aliens; “We know what they want, but we’re not going to tell you,” said Verheiden, and Wyle added that the capture of his character’s middle son happens because the aliens are, for some reason, interested in human adolescence.

With other creative talent on the show including veterans of Lost and Heroes, it’s possible that Falling Skies could be more impressive than the teaser and panel made it appear; you’ll be able to tell for yourself when the show debuts next June.

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