Our first glimpse of Spielberg's "Jericho meets Independence Day" seriesS


In Falling Skies, Steven Spielberg's TV series coming summer 2011, it's six months since aliens wiped out most of humanity. How can Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood prevail? Our first glimpse of a trailer gave us some hints. Spoilers ahead...

The panel, moderated by io9's own Marc Bernardin, started with our first trailer for the series, which only gave a few gruesome glimpses of the alien attackers. I saw one clear shot of metal feet stomping past as someone cowered in hiding, and there were quick cuts of a scene where Noah Wyle and a friend take on a monster in a storage facility or supermarket storeroom, and I thought I could see a ridged head. (In the roundtables for Falling Skies, Noah Wyle hinted that the aliens had more than two legs, and you had to get up close and personal to kill one.)

The trailer starts with a child's voiceover narrating the horrible events of the alien attack, interspersed with some gray-tinged footage of the real thing. The child says that he/she was in school when the aliens arrived - and the aliens did not want to be friends. We see footage of a flying saucer coming and blowing up some houses, intercut with a child's drawing of several flying saucers coming down. There's also a child's drawing of jagged-toothed green aliens swarming. There were millions of these aliens, the child says, and they blew up all the big cities as well as the army bases.

We see Noah Wyle talking to one of his kids, who says he just wants everything back the way it was, with his house and his bike and his room. Wyle responds that it's going to get better.

We also see the resistance's military leader, played by Will Patton, saying the cities are a loss, and everybody needs to split up and hide, so they can survive. Noah Wyle, who plays a history professor, says that history is full of cases where a smaller, less well-armed force made so much trouble for an invading army that the invaders had to leave. Noah also pushes a guy on the ground and shouts, in his best Christian Bale voice, "We either do this the right way, OR WE DIE!" There are lots of glimpses of dark evil aliens attacking, intercut with explosions and quick cuts of action scenes. It looks pretty lavish and wide-screen, and this is all just from the pilot, since that's all they've shot so far.

Our first glimpse of Spielberg's "Jericho meets Independence Day" seriesS

So how is it that Tom Mason (Wyle) goes from being a history professor to helping to lead the resistance? Well, his study of the American Revolution has left him with a deep understanding of the sort of military tactics that an out-gunned force can use against invaders. And this comes especially handy since the aliens have taken out the power grid and knocked the human race back to a 19th century level of technology. (I gleaned all this from the panel as well as the roundtable interviews.)

Tom Mason is in charge of keeping the civilians alive, while Patton's character is in charge of the military side, and if you're guessing the two come into conflict, then you're definitely right — it sounds very much like the early days of Laura Roslin and William Adama, all over again. (And of course, producer Mark Verheiden, who was also on the panel, worked on Battlestar Galactica.)

The American Revolution thing will come up a lot — but not as much as it could have. The show was originally going to be called Concord, after the famous Revolutionary War battle, and the Revolutionary parallels were going to be thick and fast. The producers decided to dial back on the American Revolution thing after realizing it could limit the show.

Wyle described his character, Tom Mason: "He's truly an academic. He's a guy who leads with his intellect." He welcomed the challenge of taking this character and turning him into a real military leader and inspiring hero. The main take-away message from the panel and roundtables, in general, was that this show will be uplifting, and not as depressing as BSG could be at times. Yes, genocide and hardship will bring out the worst in people, and people will do things they never thought they'd be capable of - but we'll also see how it brings out the best in people.

"It's not a show about people tearing each other apart. That's not a show we wanted to do," said Verheiden.

Verheiden said he and the other producers know why the aliens are on Earth and what they want - he won't tell us just yet, but they do have it figured out. And they have an endpoint for the series in mind, even if they don't know every detail of how they'll get there just yet, since they have to see how the characters develop. Each season will consist of just nine or 10 episodes on TNT over the summer, so it's less of a commitment than a 22-episode season, Wyle said.

Our first glimpse of Spielberg's "Jericho meets Independence Day" seriesS

Co-star Moon Bloodgood said her character is a pediatrician who lost her husband and child in the attacks, and she falls in love with Wyle's character. Unlike the character Bloodgood played in Terminator Salvation, this time around Bloodgood doesn't do much action. She looks after the children among the hundreds of survivors. "She's a mother type, very empathetic. Always wanting more peace than violence," said Bloodgood.

Wyle, Bloodgood and Verheiden promised that a lot of the sort of issues you'd expect will be explored in this show. How do you reconstruct society after it's been destroyed? Are there things about the old social order that you don't want to preserve? Should you cling to social institutions when society is all but gone? How young is too young for a child to start carrying a gun? What's more important: teaching a child to protect him/herself, or trying to let him/her stay a child a little longer?

Oh, and the trailer showed a glimpse of a trashed supermarket called ShopSmart, but Verheiden said any Evil Dead reference was purely unintentional.

The pilot is already in the can, but the show begins filming on its order of nine episodes on Monday. Wyle said the scripts for the upcoming episodes are clever and surprising and full of ridiculous action, as the humans take the fight to the nasty aliens.