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TNT goes sci-fi with 'Skies'

When the American Revolution broke out, few in Europe gave the ragtag Colonial upstarts much of a chance against the armies and navies of Great Britain, the pre-eminent power in the world.

But much like when the biblical hero David stood against the mighty Goliath with only his courage and a slingshot, it's often a mistake to dismiss the underdog.

Tonight, TNT premieres "Falling Skies," a science-fiction drama from executive producer Steven Spielberg. It takes place six months after an alien invasion has decimated humanity and rendered its electronic technology useless. The survivors band together and begin fighting back.

Among them is the 2nd Massachusetts, a resistance movement led by soldier Weaver (Will Patton) and his unlikely second in command, Boston history professor Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), widowed in the attack.

Mason uses his knowledge of the military tactics of the past to battle the powerful, advanced invaders.

Also starring are Moon Bloodgood as Anne Glass, a pediatrician-turned-field physician; Drew Roy as Hal, Tom's teenage son; Maxim Knight as Matt, Mason's younger son; and Connor Jessup as Ben, the last of Tom's sons, captured and enslaved by the aliens.

Over breakfast at a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., Wyle -- still wearing the scruffy beard he sported as Mason -- and a bespectacled Bloodgood talk about taking different paths in this production.

Wyle is best known as the compassionate Dr. John Carter in NBC's long-running "ER" (also produced by Spielberg), and Bloodgood made a splash with her role as a battle-hardened pilot in the feature film "Terminator Salvation," which she reprised in the video game.

"Moon and I have done a transference in this job," Wyle says. "She's the medical officer, and I'm the warrior, fighting in a post-apocalyptic world."

As to why he took the part, Wyle says, "I vetted it by my 8-year-old son, who told me I absolutely had to do this job to win his respect and love. And I get paid for it.

"This is something very different for me. This is both a genre and a type of character that are different."

It also didn't hurt to have Spielberg at the helm of a producing team that includes Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank of DreamWorks Television, Graham Yost ("Justified," "The Pacific"), and screenwriter Robert Rodat ("Saving Private Ryan"), who wrote the pilot from an idea conceived with Spielberg.

"I knew," says Wyle, "with Mr. Spielberg's involvement, the aliens and the spaceships would look cool. And I was really interested in the other side of it, this notion of having a reset button on society. Press it, and everybody would be thrown back into this 19th-century mode of existence.

"We could, as survivors, become the authors of the next Constitution, the next Gospels. You can create the template for the next civilization. It won't be in your lifetime, but it might be in your grandson's lifetime.

"We'd be able to cherry-pick the best aspects of humanity."

Although he's playing a fighting man, Wyle's years as a TV doctor did come in handy.

"He was always giving me tips," Bloodgood says. "But he was giving me the tips that make me look like a rock star, that aren't necessarily the things we're going to do in this medical situation."

"There's medicine," says Wyle, "and then there's television medicine."

"Exactly," says Bloodgood, "and he was giving me the television medicine."