Fall­ing skies

Ma­son Goes To Hell

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

Did the alien in­va­sion se­ries go out in style? Our ver­dict.

UK Broad­cast Fox, fin­ished

US Broad­cast TNT, fin­ished

Episodes Re­viewed 5.01- 5.10

It’s quite im­pres­sive that Fall­ing Skies lasted five sea­sons, given that not many peo­ple would name it their favourite SF/ fan­tasy show. For those who did hang on in there un­til the bit­ter end, the fi­nal 10 episodes are pretty con­sis­tently en­ter­tain­ing – al­beit of­ten on a fairly su­per­fi­cial level. Bar­ring the aptly- named “Respite” ( though “Longueur” would also have worked) ev­ery episode de­liv­ers on the ac­tion front, and in be­tween the ma­chine- gun bat­tles the hu­man-re­sis­tance- vs- alien­in­vaders show is still ca­pa­ble of toss­ing in a new twist – such as pi­ranha- like mu­tant in­sects, or alien- con­trolled dop­pel­gangers.

Fall­ing Skies cer­tainly can’t be ac­cused of fail­ing to de­velop over its life­span – though a re­volv­ing door pol­icy on showrun­ners ex­plains that. David Eick, fi­nal in­cum­bent of the big chair, pre­vi­ously worked on Bat­tlestar Galac­tica and brought some of that show’s moral grey­ness with him. For BSG fans it’s im­pos­si­ble not to watch episodes like “Ev­ery­one Has Their Rea­sons” and “Stalag 14th Vir­ginia” – in which the Sec­ond Mass dis­cover sur­viv­ing mil­i­tary forces, but soon find de­light turn­ing to dis­il­lu­sion­ment – with­out think­ing of Ad­mi­ral Cain and the crew of the Pe­ga­sus.

Nowhere is this evo­lu­tion from fam­ily- friendly fare more ap­par­ent than in the fig­ure of re­sis­tance leader Tom Ma­son, who be­gan the se­ries as a paragon of virtue and ends it as the sort of man who has no qualms about tor­tur­ing an alien pris­oner for in­for­ma­tion. It’s a re­mark­able trans­for­ma­tion, and Noah Wyle does a good job of pro­ject­ing the dam­aged psy­che of a man bru­talised but not beaten by his ex­pe­ri­ences.

It can’t be ac­cused of fail­ing to de­velop over its life­span

This fi­nal run also puts more em­pha­sis on in­ter- hu­man con­flict, with ex- crim John Pope set­ting his sights on Ma­son af­ter a lead­er­ship de­ci­sion sees the woman he loves die. Pope was some­times por­trayed as a love­able rogue, but year five re­mem­bers that he’s a very dan­ger­ous man, and the episodes cen­tred on his mono­ma­niac quest for vengeance are among the strong­est; given li­cence to turn the “psy­cho” dial up to 11, ac­tor Colin Cun­ning­ham has a ball. It’s a shame, then, that the writ­ing team seem to lose con­fi­dence in this con­flict. It’s left on the back­burner too long; when it re­turns to the fore it’s dealt with per­func­to­rily; and the char­ac­ter goes out with a whim­per, not a blaze of vi­o­lence. It feels like a mas­sive cop- out – just like the ease with which a ma­jor char­ac­ter death is mag­i­cally re­versed. Com­pared to, say, The Walk­ing Dead, Fall­ing Skies is an­noy­ingly keen on click­ing the undo but­ton.

Sea­son five’s big­gest dis­ap­point­ment, how­ever, is the way the Espheni are fi­nally de­feated. Mul­ti­ple mili­tias march on Washington for a fi­nal bat­tle, but it falls to Tom Ma­son alone to save the day. We can just about swal­low the no­tion that killing the Espheni queen will take down her en­tire race but the fact that Tom’s handed the nec­es­sary bio- weapon by yet another alien species un­der­cuts any sense that this is a tri­umph for hu­man courage and in­ge­nu­ity, as does the ease with which it’s ac­com­plished – se­ri­ously, the queen isn’t guarded by a sin­gle Skit­ter? For those who faith­fully fol­lowed all 52 episodes, it’s a lit­tle galling to see the war fi­nally won in scenes that play out like a videogame char­ac­ter tak­ing on an end- of- level boss. Ah well. Game over. Ian Ber­ri­man

“If only I hadn’t shot my cleaner dead.”

“Don’t worry, we’ve con­ve­niently writ­ten out the eye- worms.”

“How come we never tried eat­ing a Skit­ter be­fore?”

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