Can Falling Skies Fly Where Other ET-Invasion Dramas Have Crashed? Noah Wyle Thinks So

As the star of TNT’s much anticipated Falling Skies, Noah Wyle wasn’t looking to front TV’s definitive alien invasion series. In fact, he says he has seen neither V, The Event, nor The Walking Dead (if one wants to stretch the definition). No, he was just looking for a bit of therapy.

“The one thing [my time on] ER afforded me is financial security to use my work more as catharsis than anything else,” the alum of the beloved medical drama tells TVLine with a small, self-effacing laugh. “And [Falling Skies] had a couple of themes that have resonance with where I’m at right now in my life, that I thought were interesting explore. Fatherhood, leadership, loss, grief…. All this kind of stuff has been swirling around me lately.”

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Launching this Sunday at 9/8c with a two-hour opener, Falling Skies stars Wyle as Tom Mason, a history professor and member of the 2nd Massachusetts, a band of humans plotting to at least survive in the wake of a profoundly successful alien invasion. Widowed six months prior during the initial assault, Tom is now keeping an eye out for his MIA middle child, Ben (who has been enslaved by the “skitters” via an extraterrestrial spinal tap dubbed a “harness”), while watching over his other sons, Hal and Matt. Among the series’ ensemble, Moon Bloodgood (Day Break) plays Anne Glass, a doctor who lost her only child during the attack, while Will Patton (Armageddon) is Captain Weaver, the suffer-no-fools leader of the 2nd Mass.

Armed with his knowledge of historical battles and stratagem, Tom labors to earn Weaver’s respect and thus lead missions, though his gut instincts often put his reports face-to-face with the skitters and their hardcore, machine gun-toting kin, called “mechs.” All of which leads us to another reason Wyle enlisted for this Steven Spielberg-produced adventure. “It’s the most physical, dynamic character I’ve ever been offered to play,” the actor notes. “And any opportunity I have to saddle up alongside Mr. Spielberg, I’ll take it!”

Versus, say, ABC’s recent V reboot –- which was very “blue sky” in comparison to Falling Skies‘ decidedly grey forecast –- the TNT drama finds a compelling reality amid the unreal circumstance of aliens dominating Earth. Sure, there are visceral shoot-outs and chase scenes involving the ETs, but it’s always preceded by strategic initiatives (for example, a foraging for food stuffs or defensible harbor), and book-ended by totem-pole jockeying between Weaver’s army and the civilians they protect but are loath to cede comfortable quarters to.

Accounting for the campsite drama and tension, Wyle says, “You can’t blow your post-production budget in every episode, otherwise you get very little bang for your buck. So if you can save it up, then you can have some pretty epic set pieces. But what you fill those other episodes up with has to be another source of conflict, and being able to focus on the interpersonal differences between a bunch of disparate individuals -– a history professor, a pediatrician, a biker — trying to come together for a common good provides that.”

Previewing Tom’s crossing of swords with Weaver, Wyle says the men will slowly build to a place of “begrudging respect, where our areas of commonality become interesting.” Sometime thereafter, however, “our ideological differences clash again.”

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But enough about the humans. What’s it going to take to fend off the skitters and mechs, if not one day send them packing? Can viewers expect a big “a-ha” moment where the 2nd Mass stumbles upon their formidable foes’ Achilles heel? (Cue Jeff Goldblum uploading a computer virus to the mothership?)

Were it so easy. “It’s less of an ‘a-ha moment ‘and more strands of loose information that we gather episode to episode,” Wyle says. “And when we find ourselves in a defensible situation and are able to take a pause, we will analyze all this stuff and come up with a probable solution.”

The operative word being probable. As Wyle teases, “The more we learn, the more we learn we don’t really know” what’s going down on Earth.

Made curious by Wyle’s cryptic words, we have to ask: Is Falling Skies one of those instances where aliens pigeonholed as malevolent marauders are actually misunderstood, homesick ETs? That’s one twist Wyle is willing to dismiss.

“That’d be a long shot given the fact that they just killed 80 percent of the world population,” he points out. “Yeah, there would be a bit of a grudge to work through before we can begin any dialogue with them.”