Sci Fi's 'Taken' is a Good Trip


— Sci Fi Channel's high-profile, $20 million miniseries from executive producer Steven Spielberg — is worth both the money and the wait, at least according to a three-episode sampling provided by the network.

It's the story of three families whose lives are touched by a series of contacts with visitors from outer space, and how their lives intersect from World War II to the present. Many of the events are drawn from popular folklore or rumor about "flying saucers," which lends the whole fantastic tale a good deal of credibility.

But strong acting, a solid script, and production values that come closer to what you'd expect from the broadcast networks or Home Box Office also go a long way toward making this television epic into must-see TV.

The series begins in the mid-1940s, when U.S. fighter pilot Russell Keyes (Steve Burton) and his crew — in the midst of a dogfight over France — see their plane is enveloped in a strange, blue light. They then disappear for a few days, and it's assumed the men were captured by the Germans — only their captors weren't Germans.

In 1947, Keyes returns home, only to be troubled by bizarre dreams of his abduction that disrupt his life with his new wife and child. Eventually, he learns that the other members of his crew have died of bizarre ailments, and that they'd been abducted by aliens. Fearful of future abductions — and wanting to keep the aliens away from his family — he leaves home.

Meanwhile, an alien ship crash lands near Roswell, N.M., and an unscrupulous army officer — Air Corps Capt. Owen Crawford (Joel Gretsch) — begins an inquiry that will span decades, and three generations of his own family. One survivor of that crash makes it to rural Texas, where he seduces housewife Sally Clarke (Catherine Dent), bringing the third of the three converging families into our story.

Although Taken
is driven heavily by special effects and alien encounters, it's the characters who are the stars of this show. In the three episodes screened, we don't see much of the visitors (except for the one called John, who takes human form to seduce Sally), nor are the earthlings terribly successful at divining what they're up to. It's the engaging characters who keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

And that continues as the series moves on to the third generation, where some better-known names join the cast, including Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project) as Crawford's granddaughter Mary, and Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) as scientist Dr. Chet Wakeman, who maintain the captain's quest to find out what the aliens are up to.

But perhaps the most impressive cast member is 8-year-old Dakota Fanning, who portrays Allie, the alien-human hybrid who's the ultimate end game in Taken. Not only does Fanning play the character with a precocity that seems beyond her years, she also ties the story together as its primary narrator.

The oft-delayed Taken
appears to have been worth the wait.

The first hour of the miniseries bows Monday, Dec. 2 at 9 p.m. EST and runs for 10 consecutive weeknights on Sci Fi Channel.