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Falling Skies: The Complete First Season DVD Review

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Partially conceived and produced by Steven Spielberg, TNT’s post-apocalyptic drama Falling Skies follows a group of survivors in the aftermath of a massive alien invasion as they evade and fight back against the creatures who have overtaken the planet. If you’re never seen the show or are just looking to catch up with Falling Skies before the new season premieres, this DVD release will definitely get the job done. Fans who tuned in through the first season and want to dig deeper into the show’s production or world, however, will find little to get excited about beyond the episodes themselves.

There’s nothing particularly deep or subtle about Falling Skies. You won’t get the multi-faceted examination of religion, identity, or the meaning of “humanity” like in Battlestar Galactica. Neither does Falling Stars have the quick pace and clever, pop culture-laden dialogue of the Whedon generation of sci-fi and fantasy. Instead, it’s a very sincere show about family and survival in the face of crisis. Sometimes Falling Skies‘s earnestness works against it, resulting in cheesy speeches and confrontations. The intentional and frequent invocation of the American Revolution to describe the situation of the survivors wears thin very quickly.

Much of the time, however, the show’s sincerity works in the its favor. There are no ironic or knowing winks at the audience. No attempt to distract or awe the audience with how clever it is. Just people working through relationships and the survival-motivated militarization of what’s left of society while also fighting aliens. Really nifty aliens who enslave children and fuse nasty mind-controlling harnesses to their spines. You may scoff at bit when yet another mention is made of how close the characters are to Lexington and Concord, but you’ll definitely want to keep watching to see what happens next.

Special Features

  • Animating the Skitters (4:00)
  • Falling SkiesPanel: San Diego Comic-Con 2011
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes: “The Unknown” (2:44) and “The Second Mass” (3:00)
  • Unanswered Questions: Season 2 Sneak Peek
  • Audio Commentaries

The special features are serviceable but largely uninteresting. “Animating the Skitters” focuses on the effects artists who rendered the digital creatures, but the poor balance between interview dialogue and overpowering metal background music makes it difficult to watch. There is also no discussion of the actual design of the creatures, which might have made things more interesting.

The two videos billed as “Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes” actually seem to be extended versions of the “Sneak Peeks” TNT regularly airs within and in promotion for its shows. It features actors and producers discussing Falling Skies, and a few shots of scenes being filmed, but they rely heavily on finished footage and very polished, expository “interviews.” There is nothing particularly candid, funny, or revelatory in them. The season two preview is equally uninformative about what we can expect from the Second Mass and their alien oppressors.

There are audio commentaries on five of season one’s ten episodes: “The Armory,” “Prisoner of War,” “What Hides Beneath,” “Mutiny,” and “Eight Hours.” The first two feature co-executive producer and director Greg Beeman, the third has Noah Wylie and writer Mark Verheiden, and the final two have all three. Single-person commentaries can drag on, and this is definitely true of Beeman’s solo episodes. They are interesting, though, in Beeman’s discussion of his directorial choices and some of the practical difficulties of the production. The commentaries are far more engaging once Wylie and Verheiden chime in, as well as more revelatory about the choices behind the aliens, their abilities, and design.

There are also some important hints for season two hidden in the audio commentaries, as they were seemingly recorded after filming had finished. (Minor spoiler warning) We’ll be seeing more of the harnesses and their lingering physical effects on Ben, judging by a passing comment about how they had to modify the actor’s season two prosthetic because the expanded version was so uncomfortable. And the inferences Weaver draws from his wife’s glasses may not be so crazy after all. Says Noah Wylie in the “What Hides Beneath” commentary, “Having completed the second season, it’s actually fairly accurate.”

Honestly, aside from some of the audio commentaries, there isn’t a lot in this DVD release to recommend it over a streaming option (should one become available). However, if you skipped or missed Falling Skies when it aired last summer, you should definitely catch up before the second season premieres on TNT this Sunday, June 17th.

Comments

  1. Fortunately in the UK FX has just rerun the entire 1st series. Looking forward to July 3rd when series 2 premieres here!

  2. danzee says:

    Yeah, I have a lot of criticism of the show, but I have to admit that I tore through the entire season in a couple of sittings whereas its sister show Terra Nova (also Spielberg ex-produced) seemed like a chore to sit through each episode. Skies was underwritten while Nova was overwritten. Overall, I’m happy to see Skies return.

    On the criticism side, hiding in a school seems totally ridiculous. The freedom fighters are totally out in the open and the aliens could take them out just from dropping a few rocks on them. The Boston area doesn’t have many caves, but there’s a big cold war bunker in Framingham, cities have extensive sewer systems under them, and buildings have some fairly deep basements that they could hide in. I’m tired of the old sci-fi trope that the aliens don’t want to wipe them out for ______ reason. Also the low budget led to a lot of talking instead of action in the later episodes. A couple of them could have been chopped without missing anything. But I’m looking forward to season 2.