The first alien invasion story I ever saw was The War of the Worlds. Not the new one with Tom Cruise, but the original 1953 version. I couldn’t have been more than seven when I watched it on TV one sunny Saturday afternoon. Do you know why I’ve never seen the remake? Because the original scared me half to death.
There’s a scene where an alien camera-thing sort of sneaks up behind a woman. It looks like a head with three glowing eyes and it slinks down from the ceiling on a long tube of a neck. When she finally notices this monstrosity she lets out an impressive blood-curdling scream before the hero lops off the offending head with an axe. The neck then zips back up through the ceiling and into the ship hovering above them in the sky. I may have screamed.
And what do these humans do after inflicting bodily harm on the alien camera-head thingy? They grab the head to take back to their lab for study and get the heck out of Dodge because there are giant killer aliens with laser beams in the sky and all the humans have is an axe. See, smart humans. The humans in the TNT series Falling Skies, however, are from the shallow end of the gene pool since rather than doing smart things, these guys excel at Stupid Human Tricks that surely have the aliens laughing as they destroy the planet.
I watched the two-hour premier the other night and almost didn’t make it through the whole thing. First, there’s the cliched Dad-trying-to-save-his-kids. He’s just an ordinary, everyday guy who used to be a history teacher. He doesn’t t know the first thing about tactics, or fighting or any of that stuff. He’s just a guy, you know? He wants to keep his two boys safe and rescue the one who the aliens have already managed to wrench from his shaking hands. Poor Dad. Poor kids. Poor, poor humans. They’re a ragtag fugitive fleet, searching for justice and a little piece of earth they can call their own in a mad, mad world….ugh. I didn’t use enough cliches in that paragraph to fully convey how overused they are in this story.
The show begins six months after the aliens land on earth, blow up all the cool cities and start stealing our kids. Yeah, the kids. There are lots of scenes with the sad, sad, sad kids because that makes it deep and meaningful and touches something in the heart of even the most hardened viewer. We humans are on the run, stealing food and scavenging weapons as we evade our new alien overlords. Again, it’s been six months so these humans ought to be the smart ones, right? In The War of the Worlds, the first three guys the aliens kill are some goofballs that walk up to the ship waving white flags. That is a Stupid Human Trick and they are rightly incinerated. The folks who survive the opening salvos are smart because they run in the opposite direction and hide in bunkers and behind sandbags and are all sneaky-like.
In the opening scenes of Falling Skies, they hide behind completely ineffective piles of burned out cars in the middle of the street and get blow to bits while trying to push along a little trolley cart full of food. Stupid Human Trick. If I was going to sneak into a store on a debris filled street to scavenge food right under the noses of the aliens I wouldn’t bring a wheeled cart that I had to push along like a little old lady. I’d bring a large backpack or two so my hands would be free to shoot and I could run as fast as my little feet could manage.
Later, they head to the armory to see what kind of weapons they might be able to secure. As a test, they throw a ball toward the entrance for their dog to follow and if an alien comes out, then they know they’ve got trouble. I liked this idea because this was a Smart Human Trick to root out the alien. And, surprise, there is an alien hiding in this obvious location full of weapons. Luckily, we’ve been warned thanks to Fido, but then this one guy runs out to save the dog! What, the what? Have they learned nothing in their six month occupation? Stupid Human Trick.
After the most recent episode, I can’t decide if it’s worth my time. I like alien invasion stories, even the ones that scared me as a kid, but I hate it when they are full of Stupid Human Tricks. I end up rooting for the aliens, or the evil human that inevitably makes an appearance. In fact, the evil human in Falling Skies was all kinds of crazy awesome and he might be what gets me to watch the next episode. That, and the off chance that there might be some intelligent life on our own planet who can save these fools from themselves.
What do you think? Can’t wait to see what happens to our hapless humans or are you rooting for the aliens?