Steven Spielberg's Falling Skies = Saving Private Ryan with Aliens

Steven Spielberg's alien invasion show Falling Skies will show off the alien invaders in the opening moments of the first episode, judging from footage we saw at Wondercon.

We saw four clips from the first couple episodes of Falling Skies, and they showcased post-apocalyptic drama, huge explosions and stunts, and even some teen romance. It certainly looked like it could be a fun ride. Spoilers ahead...

So we learned quite a bit more of the backdrop of Falling Skies, from the clips we watched and the Q&A during the panel. The show takes place six months after the start of the alien invasion – which began with an electro-magnetic pulse that took out everything with a transistor. The aliens wiped out our military and our cities, and now they're taking all of the teenagers alive so they can implant weird mind-control devices into the backs of their necks and make them into a workforce.

In the clips we watched, we glimpsed both the fight against the aliens and the ways in which the civilians try to carry on their lives. The aliens are Skitters – six-limbed giant bugs with tusks and mandibles – and they also have mechs, which are two-limbed walkers that may be robots or just vehicles. In the battle scenes we witnessed, the only light comes from the aliens – they have search lights, they have lasers which fry people instantly. The humans have guns and, in one case, a jury-rigged truck, but they're mostly fumbling in the darkness and the smoke, running from the light.

In one scene, we saw Noah Wyle's character and his son (Drew Roy) on a botched mission which leads to them running for their lives, as a barricade falls. And as the barricade falls, we learn that Boston itself may have just fallen to the aliens. And in another scene, Wyle and company lead a raid to try and get back some of the teenagers that have been kidnapped and enslaved by the aliens – but it goes horribly wrong.

Meanwhile, we also saw Wyle's younger son drawing crayon drawings of the alien attack (as seen in some of the trailers) and working through his feelings. We got to see Moon Bloodgood's pediatrician character trying to do triage and treat a bunch of wounded adults. (She asks Wyle what they're going to do next, and he says, "Retreat, regroup, return, revenge.") And we see Wyle's older son having a tender moment with one of his several love interests in the show's first season.

Here's a brief clip that was just released online:
Click to view

A big theme in the Q&A was the idea that the resistance fighters in the show are ordinary people, mothers and fathers and kids, who are struggling to become a fighting force. They have to put aside their differences, and even work with ex-criminals, to get the job done.

One of the show's producers, former Lost writer Melinda Hsu Taylor, explained just how this series will be different from the "magical island" romp. For one thing, the characters don't have any secret pasts – they're pretty much exactly who they seem to be, and the mysteries are about the aliens. For another, there will be no flashbacks whatsoever.

Another touchpoint for this show: the movie Saving Private Ryan. The show's pilot was written by Robert Rodat, who wrote Private Ryan, and the show has a similar feeling – it focuses on a handful of characters who are taking part in the fight without knowing the big picture or any grand strategy. The main difference between Private Ryan and Falling Skies, of course, is that the Allies did have a plan to defeat the Axis – and the humans in Falling Skies are hopelessly outclassed against the superior alien forces.