Steven Spielberg extends his mastered craft of sci-fi production to the SciFi Channel in the new 10-episode mini-series “Taken”. The excellent series is a 50-year portrait of alien abduction, reproduction and discussion that intertwines three American families: The Crawfords, the Keys and the Clarkes.
“Taken” involves a complex cast of 16 characters that encompasses the extraordinary experiences of the three families. Each two-hour episode builds onto an overall plot of alien infiltration on Earth and depicts the generational problems associated with the legacies passed down from relatives – characters portrayed in previous episodes. Character recognition and association from one episode to another can be difficult as many of the main characters resemble one another, even between family lines. However, prior knowledge of previous episodes is unnecessary as new characters are introduced and well-developed each night and the overall plot is conveyed within the introduction to each episode.
The premiere episode, titled “Beyond the Skies,” introduces the universal saga in 1944 when World War II fighter pilot Russell Keys (Steve Burton, “General Hospital”) is shot down over Germany. Though Keys appears to be fatally wounded, resulting in the plane’s downward spiral, a pulsating stream of blue lights appears from the sky to enclose the craft. Upon returning home as a war hero, Keys claims to have forgotten his escape from the plane and the three day journey back to his troop. Although Keys is wary of his suspected alien encounter, he has noticed a change within himself. Keys continues throughout the series to be haunted by mysterious images of alien encounters and cannot explain whether these are simply nightmares or actual occurrences. Russell Keys establishes the family curse of alien abduction as his son and grandson also experience similar traumatic encounters.
The Crawford legacy begins in 1947 on the Roswell Base of New Mexico, as a reckless and malicious Capt. Owen Crawford (Joel Gretsch, “The Legend of Bagger Vance”) attempts to climb the ranks through a serious of conniving acts. Owen is determined to outdo the colonel and steal the recent alien crash sight project, originally titled “Project Mogul”. Crawford uses his masculine charm to entice an ex-girlfriend, a witness of the crash, for a scrap of foreign metal she found at the sight. Once retrieving the perfect piece of bribery, Captain Crawford murders her brutally with a blunt object and marries the Colonel’s daughter so that he may gain power over “Project Mogul.” Crawford’s offspring and subsequent generations continue to pursue alien encounters with the same malevolent attitude as their predecessors and are the catalysts for conflict within each episode.
Though the Clarke family originated in a small farming community in Texas, the results of their actions may have the foremost impact on human civilization. After the alien spaceship crashed in New Mexico, researchers found only four of the five aliens. The fifth alien mutated into John (Eric Close, “Now and Again”), a devilishly handsome middle-age man sent to impregnate Sally Clarke (Catherine Dent, “The Majestic”). The reproduction of their short-lived infatuation produces three generations of gifted humans. Introduced in remaining episodes, the most gifted of generations is Allie Keys – a culmination of powers from the Keys and Clarke legacy and great granddaughter to both Russell Keys and alien John.
Steven Spielberg uses computer-generated images to enhance the close encounters and the imagination of Allie Keys. The visual effects of the aliens are reminiscent of a Spielberg motion picture and prove to be as equally effective for television programming. Though the plot is complex and extends four generations, it attempts to delve into deeper content of family interaction and relations of American culture within the last fifty years. However, don’t be mistaken, Steven Spielberg’s “Taken” is science fiction, and impeccably intended for such an audience.