Channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am


Steven Spielberg is helping us erase the memory of his 2002 alien-abduction series Taken by executive producing two highly anticipated sci-fi shows, both of which are scheduled to arrive on our screens this month.

We'll take a look at the time-travelling, dinosaur-filled Terra Nova, when it airs at the end of the month, but this week we'll focus on Falling Skies (AXN Beyond; double episodes on Mondays at 8.20pm), a post-alien-invasion yarn created by Saving Private Ryan screenwriter Robert Rodat and starring Noah Wyle (ER) as Tom Mason, a professor of military history turned resistance fighter.

Intelligent aliens- dubbed 'skitters' because of the way they move about on six legs- invaded Earth six months ago and have become the planet's dominant species. The skitters and their armoured 'mechs' have wiped out armies and a good part of humanity, taken over major cities worldwide and, using mind control, have enslaved children- including Mason's son, Ben.

On the outskirts of Boston, Mason and a band of soldiers and civilians under Captain Dan Weaver (Will Patton; 24) are fighting to survive. The plan is to keep moving, hiding and scavenging for weapons and food until they figure out how to fight an enemy they don't yet understand. The weapons are lo-tech, the food is horrible and Weaver is frustrated at having to protect civilians- which puts him at odds with Mason, who has two other sons with him at the camp.

Mason struggles to maintain a balance of trust between soldier and civilian, while tapping his extensive knowledge of world military history for lessons in strategy and, in desperate moments, hope.

'History is full of inferior forces creating so much trouble that the invading forces leave,' he says to his team before a dangerous recon mission.

Falling Skies is not an edge-of-your- seat drama- amid brief encounters with the aliens, the series presents a study of survivor psychology and social dynamics. Discoveries about the nature of the enemy come slowly, but the sub-plots within the camp - the father-son bond, dark pasts, betrayals- keep affairs interesting.

Add to this the fifth season of Doctor Who (BBC Entertainment; Fridays at 8.50pm), and we're left with no shortage of farfetched ideas about space, time and extraterrestrial life. As sad as we were at David Tennant's departure, the 11th doctor's (Matt Smith) energetic entrance bodes well for the continued allure of the Whoniverse. Armed with a new Tardis, a tweed jacket, a bow tie and a fetching new companion, this doctor can be expected to continue the series' grand traditions.

Finally, Endurance Traveler (above; Nat Geo Adventure, Wednesdays at 8pm) takes a refreshing - if demanding - view of world travel. Join endurance athlete Dean Warhaft (whose day job is in real-estate law) on a year of travelling the globe and competing in a variety of endurance races in countries such as Brazil, the United States and Switzerland. Each episode matches the intensity of the races with cultural and culinary explorations into the host city and country.

During the year it took to make the series (which he bankrolled), Warhaft not only travelled 200,000 kilometres by air, he cycled 1,680 kilometres, ran 300 kilometres, swam 62 kilometres and inline-skated 140 kilometres. Warhaft has been described by a friend as having 'a high tolerance for pain', which explains why he can smile and talk to the camera through multiple marathons. We'll let you decide whether to be awed or annoyed by this.