Ladies and Gentlemen, I stand before you a crushed dispirited old man. My eyes have become weary. My bones ache. I keep telling those damn kids to get off of my lawn.
So how did I? A 23 year old demi-god fall into such a state?
I watched Falling Skies premier on TNT, which coincidentally, is also what I would use on the script of Falling Skies. A big bunch of TNT…so much that it would leave a crater three miles wide.
I’ve seen bad premiers before, oh yes I have (I’m looking at you Happy Town), but at least most of them had the damn common decency to at least be funny (A point in Happy Town‘s favor). This was just depressing, because it illustrates everything wrong with the Science Fiction genre on TV and movies. It’s shows like Falling Skies that have made it possible for there to be only one Sci-Fi show on every major channel here in the US, that have made us suffer the plague of reality shows and crime drama swarms, and it’s shows like this that made the Sci-Fi channel change it’s name to Syfy: it’s just plain embarrassing. A lot of people piled on Syfy for changing its name, but let’s be honest here, with all the crap that has permeated the Sci-fi genre, would you want to associate yourself with it by using it’s name? Would you want to share the same name as V or Signs? Do you want to be in the ranks of Star Trek Enterprise and Caprica? I didn’t think so.
So it would take me a good three to four hundred pages to cover everything that was wrong with this premier, but I’ll just keep it to five huge problems that permeate all bad scifi.
Number 5: Pretentious Characters
There must be some kind of belief among television executives that in order to appeal to people who like Sci-Fi there has to be a incredibly intelligent protagonist, someone whose knowledge makes everyone else look inferior. Maybe they’re trying to appeal to the reclusive and aggressive nerds who still live in basements and believe they’re the worlds greatest authority on everything. And if they are, I have one thing to say: Fuck you. That’s right. Fuck you for thinking that everyone that likes sci-fi is a pretentious egotistical prick who couldn’t hold a normal conversation to save their lives.
So let me set the stage: Our heroes are looking at the gigantic death platform parked in the middle of Boston. Hope is running low. People are scared. A few of the soldiers start fantasizing about blowing the thing up, a normal reaction, trying to blow off steam and make themselves feel like there’s hope.
“You’d never get close enough to that thing to blow it up. What you need to do is get inside!” Our hero proclaims. Okay, I can roll with that. The guy’s a realist. “Like with the greeks with the Trojan horse or the Romans at the battle of [words became unclear] Or the sappers of WWI. They would dig underground and plant explosives under the enemy lines. Yeah, that’s what we need to do, dig under it!”
Now our self righteous prick of a hero has already been established as a professor of Military History, though later contradicted in the second episode where it’s American History [as if there’s any difference!], this stupid line about different battles only makes him look like a professor of being a dick. You know in all the presidential elections they say people want to have a beer with the guy they vote for and why people hate “Elitism”? It’s crap like this that make people think college educated people are all smug superior egotists. People who go out of their way to list off irrelevant information for the sake of making themselves look smarter, and everyone else look dumb to pump up their flagging egos. Come on, we’ve all known someone whose acted exactly like this. I used to act like this when I was a kid, trying to make myself feel better by listing off obscure facts and acting like others were stupid for not knowing them. And I remind you, this is the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for, and this is only the tip of a very large and self-important iceberg.
Later, when the commander of the 2nd Massachusetts orders our hero to head out with some refugees, he’s incensed that a guy with 20 years of combat experience is given command of the unit instead of him. As if his PHd in American/Military history is somehow more applicable. This is all in the first twenty minutes of the show. Twenty minutes and I’m already ready to punch him in the face.
4: Having the Pretentious Hero list off Incorrect Facts
Yeah, remember that whole bit about the sappers in World War I? Well he fails to mention that it could sometimes take weeks, or even months, to dig those tunnels. Also those were only a dozen feet or so beneath the ground. Did I mention that when he suggested the whole “Tunneling to Blow it Up!” plan, that the structure is a good ten or fifteen miles away? Or that the Charles river is between them and the giant alien platform? That means that they’d have to dig at least 200 feet deep to avoid flooding the tunnel. You know what people use to dig tunnels like that?
Now while I’m sure our hero could fit that thing up his ass (with all the time he spends with his head up it I’m sure it’s stretched out to quite a nice degree), he doesn’t seem to pull one out of it. So his entire spiel about digging? Yeah, it just makes him look like an ass.
But then I considered, well maybe he was thinking long term. Maybe he’d come back later, move deeper into the city and then go from there…but then of course if they could get into the city then…we really wouldn’t need to dig at all. Yeah, he’s just an ass.
Oh and that’s not all the tripe that spills forth from this guys gaping maw.
“History is full of examples showing that if it becomes too costly or too painful the occupying force gives up. The Soviets in Afghanistan, the Scots and the Brits at Sterling Bridge“ – End of stupid quote.
Read it if you want but let me boil it down to the basic facts. Our hero is talking out of his ass! He’s espousing the idea of guerrilla warfare to defeat the aliens, which is fine in theory,but then he names a battle that had nothing to do with guerrilla warfare at all! The battle of Sterling Bridge boiled down to the fact that the Scottish had a superior tactical position, and the English we’re forced to withdraw after taking too many casualties. It was still a military engagement, the Scots didn’t engage in hit and run, they stood their ground. And England didn’t just give up after that defeat, it took nearly forty years for England to finally recognize Scotland as an independent kingdom. Forty years of bloody field battles and sieges. So not only have the writers alienated every viewer whose ever watched Braveheart (and as distorted as their depiction of Stirling is, it’s still more accurate than our heroes), they’ve apparently shown us that our professor is either lying about having a degree or that he cheated on his final exam.
Number 3: Making the People with Actual Intelligence the Bad Guys
So the one person who seems to realize that “acting” requires playing a role, and actually possesses some talent, is the commander of our hero’s unit (you know, the one he didn’t want to follow because he never went to college!).
That’s the great Will Patton, from Remember the Titans, and the only person on the cast that seems to possess any talent.
His character is one of the few characters who seems to realize that aliens have invaded earth. He’s gruff, he’s not a people person, and he knows how to survive. Our leaders first command decision is to send the hero to pick up extra provisions for the giant train of refugees they’re protecting. That’s it, they’re job is just to get food. Then our prick of a hero starts whining: He wants some C4. He wants a bazooka. He wants it and he wants it nowwww! WAHHHHHH!
I wanted to slap him (again). Your objective is to gather supplies! Not seek combat! What are you afraid the canned goods are going to put up a fight? You need C4 to collect some Rice Krispies!? GAH!
Later, the doctor (another college graduate who is just as pretentious as our hero), complains that the soldiers are the only ones being quartered in the suburbs they’re passing through. It’s not fair. Oh, I’m sorry, does your huge PHD head need proper support? Would you like a sleep number bed? Are you the one lugging around fifty pounds of equipment, and risking your life for a bunch of strangers? No? Then shut up!
Luckily that’s basically how Weaver (Will Patton) responds, and we the audience are supposed to be incensed. I wanted to shake the guys hand. He’s not only saving the human race, he’s saving this show from being a complete disaster. The only other character who doesn’t act like a plank of wood with a face on it, is the next bad guy, a redneck psychopath who also knows how to survive. He’s cruel, cunning, and highly intelligent. He’s a good character because while he has his flaws we can relate with him. Or maybe it’s just me because I’m also mentally unstable.
But obviously someone on the writing staff thinks his college diploma makes him special, and thus has our incompetent hero outsmart and outmaneuver the man whose entire life revolves around killing. Which leads us neatly into our next problem.
Number 2: The protagonist is terrible at his job
This one really gets me down. The writers go through all this trouble, alienate the audience with the hero’s whining and whinging, piss everyone off with his pretentious nonsense, and then they go and show our hero to not only be an asshole, but an incompetent asshole at that.
Our hero’s next mission is simple. Scout the armory and see if anything there is worth salvaging. How does he do it? He sends in the dog! Yeah, that’s a bit of a dick move. He sends in the helpless pup to do his job for him, and it’s never explained how this is supposed to help. Have they learned to communicate with dogs in this show? Was he supposed to report back what he found?
Then the Alien appears in a giant mecha suit and it doesn’t hurt the dog. That’s right, the alien has more respect for canine life than our heroes. Hope you’re proud of yourselves writers, you just alienated every dog lover watching as well.
So after his first screwup our hero is sent back in. Apparently not understanding the concept behind Scouting, he and his entire squad enter the armory and somehow get downstairs thanks to a convenient scene cut. There is only one way in and out, a narrow staircase. It was at this moment I recalled a favorite line in Inglorious Bastards:
“Yeah, in a basement. You know, fightin’ in a basement offers a lot of difficulties. Number one being, you’re fightin’ in a basement!” – LT. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt)
So okay, maybe it was necessary to scout the basement, but why on earth would you send your whole goddamn squad down there? Any competent leader would only send two down to scout, and if they ran into trouble the others could either find another way in to help them…or if worst came to worst, you leave them to cover your own escape. So they predictably get captured and taken to a school auditorium. Yeah, apparently an Armory of United States Military is adjoined to the local middle school, that’s just taking school recruiting to a whole new level! Which brings us to our final problem.
Number 1: Inconsistent information!
We’ve all seen this, it’s sometimes a problem with longrunning scifi programs. Star Trek suffered a lot of this, but after seven series over forty years its understandable that they’d forget what some of their technology does in certain situations. But this is the bloody premier of Falling Skies and already they can’t keep their facts straight.
In the introductory prologue a little girl tells us that the alien ships came down and made all the lights go out. Presumably an EMP that disabled all our technology. Okay, cool. I can dig that…wait, are you guys driving around in an old car from the 60’s?
Later, a girl whose praying is told by another pretentious supporting character “Why don’t you pray for a B52 bomber with a nuclear payload!”.
So…let me get this straight. All our military equipment was fried, but it left an assortment of old cars completely in tact…
Your saying this:
Is technologically inferior to this:
Yeah, I don’t think I need to say anymore. I think that about covers everything.
And you know what the really sad part is: I’m going to keep watching because it’s the only scifi show on!