Sunday, July 24, 2011

Latest in sci-fi: Falling Skies and Alphas

Ever since Lost and Battlestar Galactica ended, it seems like most attempts at sci-fi TV shows haven't gone so well, especially on the big networks. V, Flashforward, The Event...they were all pretty awful. I think a problem that they all stared was that they started out too ambitious: characters spread out into disconnected storylines which made them hard to care about. Maybe I'm sort of a "soft" science-fiction fan but I feel like sci-fi shows work best when they balance the "science" and mythology and action parts with good character development. Falling Skies (TNT) and Alphas (SyFy) both premiered this summer and while they're definitely not Lost or BSG, I think they do a much better job at striking that balance.

Falling Skies - I liked the pilot of this show and it's actually been improving steadily since then. The show starts some time after Earth has been invaded and largely destroyed by aliens and follows a group of survivors as they struggle to fight back. Noah Wyle stars as Tom Mason, a former history professor who is now second in command of this group, called the 2nd Massachusetts (like in the Revolutionary War). He was a bit annoying in the pilot constantly spouting examples from history that related to their current situation but that's been toned down and he's actually a very strong lead. There are definitely some shades of BSG here, with the group being comprised of both "fighters" and civilians between which tensions arise, and a little of Jericho too. I like that the show is following just this one group (we don't have much idea of what's happening in the rest of the country/world) and there have been some really good character moments that allow the audience to get invested. The action and special effects have pretty decent as well (this is a Steven Spielberg-backed project, after all) and this past week's episode started to reveal a bit more about the aliens' motives. So it's not the most innovative or exciting or different, but with good acting, writing, and production values, this is definitely solid. I'm hoping that they keep up the quality and momentum.

Alphas (SyFy) - On the surface this seems a lot like Heroes, which I guess is not necessarily a bad thing considering that Heroes was actually quite good at the beginning. But I think the difference here again, is that this show is not trying to bring together all these characters initially in separate storylines. It begins with the five main characters who have "abilities"(called Alphas) already working together in a team that is somehow supported by the government (they have offices and I assume, paychecks). They're led by Dr. Lee Rosen, who doesn't have an ability himself but serves as mentor/psychiatrist/parental figure for the team. He's played by Oscar nominee David Strathairn, whose mere presence brings the show up a notch. The abilities represented by the team are pretty standard, but with a twist. Rachel can enhance one of her senses...but at the expense of the other four. Bill, a former FBI agent, can activate his "fight or flight" response which makes him incredibly strong but can have serious after effects. The 90-minute pilot lagged in spots and I'm not sure how the show will progress week-to-week but I found myself liking a lot of the characters so I'm going to stick with it for now.

Another sci-fi show I really want to watch is Torchwood: Miracle Day but I don't have Starz and it won't be on Netflix streaming right away...

1 comment:

burkie said...

i've been watching Falling Skies (it's on one of my networks!) and it's held my interest so far. i'm a casual sci-fi fan; it needs good character development to hold my interest. there's promise here--and the latest episode was best, i thought. we learned something about the doctor lady and the religious girl. it's not must-see tv, but it's certainly not embarrassing, either. and i agree about the special effects--they are suprisingly good.