WonderCon 2011: FALLING SKIES Panel

     April 1, 2011

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TNT presented some new footage from their upcoming sci-fi series Falling Skies today to fans at WonderCon, and we were there to cover it. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, the series stars Noah Wyle as a former university professor and father who has taken up the leadership role in a resistance faction made up of soldiers and civilians alike. In addition to Wyle, Falling Skies also stars Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, and Drew Roy. Hit the jump to check out a recap on the footage and panel, as well as my reaction to what we were shown.

falling-skies-poster-01Showrunner Mark Verheiden, star Drew Roy and writer Melinda Hsu appeared on the panel and they showed four clips in all.

The first clip opened with the same child voice-over seen in previous clips and trailers. The backstory of how the aliens took over Earth is told through this voice over, as the child describes how the aliens “kill adults and take children”. He also mentions that some sort of device is being attached onto children by the aliens. The child says his mother was killed, and when reassured that he and his father are safe now, the child responds that that’s not for certain, because his dad is ‘fighting.”

We then cut to Wyle and Roy running through the night streets of a post-apocalyptic city. They’re dodging alien zaps from above, but we don’t see what they’re running from for the time being. The laser zaps consist of what looked like four beams of light in a circular pattern. We learn that they’re mission is to get food, presumably for the rest of the people back at their camp. They run into a store and we glimpse a young woman being zapped by a laser, but it looks like she’s frozen or stunned instead of killed.

It’s at this point that we get our first look at the aliens. They move like a spider/crab hybrid, with what looked like 8 jointed legs. Their heads look like a smaller version of the aliens in Independence Day (think of the head of the alien in the mothership that Will Smith and Jeff Goldbloom encounter). The two then run towards a barricade, behind which we find more survivors armed with guns battling the aliens/ships on their tail.

The next scene was a daytime-set scene with Wyle and another character watching a group of young teenagers with big metal devices attached to and running down their spine. They move around like zombies, picking up pieces of steel and moving them. We also see a big alien machine patrolling the area that looked a bit like the robot suits the humans used in Avatar. It wasn’t clear whether an alien was driving the device from inside or not, but one would assume as much. The man with Wyle sees his son and tries to rescue him, but is spotted by the alien robot. A short gun-fight follows, ending with Wyle triggering an explosion near the robot. The visual effects and stunt work here was pretty impressive.

We next saw a non-action scene that took place in a suburban house. The scene focused mainly on Roy and (Jesse Sharan) rummaging through what looks like a young girl’s room, talking about Harry Potter books and reminiscing on life before the aliens. The scene didn’t fully work, and there were a couple cringe-worthy lines thrown out during their flirting (“I played lacrosse, the football players got the groupies”). Wyle entered the scene toward the end and I felt myself wanting him to stay. His tag got quite a big laugh and I was left wishing to see more of his character.

The final clip was a short scene between Wyle and Moon Bloodgood, showing a typical day at the camp. Bloodgood seems to be a nurse of some sort, going through supplies while Wyle looks to be regrouping. The two talk briefly about their past lives (Wyle was a history teacher), before Wyle ends the scene with a note of confidence in the group’s survival and eventual revenge on the alien invaders.

During the panel, showrunner Verheiden explained that what makes the series unique is that it takes place six months after the invasion, telling the survivor story. He mentioned that the shock of what happened has gone away, and they have to deal with “how do we live with this?” Apparently an EMP was emitted right as the aliens invaded, so everyone has been living without technology.

Lost was mentioned quite a few times as an inspiration for the show (Hsu was a co-producer on Lost), in the respect that they plan on focusing a lot on character. However, they did state their intention to not do flashbacks for the series. Steven Spielberg is an executive producer and Robert Rodat, who wrote Saving Private Ryan wrote the pilot. The two collaborated and are responsible for the genesis of the project.

Overall, the footage was fairly intriguing. The visual effects look great for a modestly budgeted cable television show, and the aliens are actually pretty impressive. I’d like to have seen some more of the dramatic scenes, as we really didn’t get to hear the characters speak much. It’s kind of hard to judge the show based solely on action set-pieces, but the opening piqued my interest and Wyle’s brief appearance in the dramatic scenes left me wanting to see more of the actor. I’m interested to see him interact with his onscreen son. I’ll definitely be checking out the full pilot to see how everything works together, but am still not completely sold.

Falling Skies premieres on June 19th on TNT.

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