'Falling Skies': A Family Series -- With Aliens

At the show's Monday night premiere, Noah Wyle tells The Hollywood Reporter: "Our show walks a really interesting line between being a character-based drama and being a sci-fi show."
"Falling Skies"

Falling Skies isn’t your typical alien invasion series. Instead of going for epic invasion scenes like some of its predecessors, the TNT series picks up six months after aliens have invaded and shifts its focus to the survivors of the attack.

“It’s not about the invasion – it’s about the resistance,” co-executive producer Mark Verheiden told The Hollywood Reporter at Monday’s premiere in West Hollywood. “It’s about finding hope in an otherwise hopeless situation.”

Noah Wyle (ER) stars as Tom Mason, a Boston history professor who will stop at nothing to reunite his family and free his middle son, Ben (Connor Jessup, The Saddle Club), after he’s abducted by aliens and fitted with a mysterious organic being that lives on his back.

“Our show walks a really interesting line between being a character-based drama and being a sci-fi show,” Wyle said. “It’s not really one or the other but has a little something for both.”

Tom winds up using his extensive knowledge of military history to become second in command as part of the 2nd Massachusetts, a group of resistance fighters who are tasked with protecting a large group of civilian survivors -- all while balancing the new definition of what it means to be a father in a post-invasion world with his eldest Hal (Drew Roy, Secretariat) and youngest Matt (Maxim Knight, Brothers & Sisters) sons along for the ride.

“It’s taking place six months after the invasion, so you’re seeing how people are banding together and fighting for one cause: living,” said Roy, whose character goes from arguing with his father over typical teen woes like curfews pre-invasion to guns and ammunition afterward. “There are a lot of different ways of going about that. We have military guys and civilians; there’s a nice clash going on.”

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Among those civilians lending their abilities to the resistance are Moon Bloodgood’s (Terminator Salvation) Anne, a pediatrician who lost her child and who now helps care for injured soldiers battling two types of aliens: spider-like “skitters” and heavily armed robot-like bipeds dubbed “mechs.”

“The primary story is about a family and the people surrounding them; the aliens are a secondary story,” she said. “If you start with the human element and work from that it’s less science-fiction and fantasy and more real and honest.”

While Wyle’s Tom may have lost his wife shortly after the attack, Bloodgood noted that Tom and Anne will have a very “gradual and organic” romance. “It’s very honest and classy,” she noted. “If we got together right away it would be a cliché and predictable.”

With the “master of sci-fi” Steven Spielberg on board as an executive producer, the alien mystery ties in with the drama’s family dynamic in a way that throws 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial on its ear.

Jessup noted that the alien strapped to the back of abducted kids on the series represents one of the series’ more symbiotic elements. “It’s one of the greatest mysteries in the series: Why are the aliens kidnapping teenagers and why are they putting these things on their backs? It’s probably the most important element of the show and it comes back in ways you’d never expect.”

Falling Skies unfolds over eight weeks and premieres Sunday on TNT with a two-hour premiere starting at 9 p.m.

Falling Skies: TV Review