Everyone knows the accepted lore about alien abduction - the grey, almond-eyed aliens, the lights in the sky, the odd surgical procedures... but what happens to the people whose lives are touched by extraterrestrials?
The epic series Taken tackles the human side of the story of Earth's visitation by aliens. We don't use the word 'epic' lightly - the ten feature-length episodes trace the stories of three families over more than half a century. Steven Spielberg, the creator of the show, had a very distinct vision for the project:
"I've always been interested in the genre and I thought I couldn't acquit this genre in a two hour or two hour and fifteen minute long movie. We would all need a lot more patience and a lot more time to really do the history of alien abductions starting back in 1947 right to today which is what Taken is about - the history of alien abductions. [...] I believe what will keep people tuned in hopefully is that the characters are very compelling and you watch these characters evolve and age before your eyes and give birth to special children who themselves have a purpose in our story."
Narrated by a seven year old girl, Allie, (played by the extraordinarily talented Dakota Fanning), the story starts with Russell Keys' close encounter with 'blueies' - mysterious glowing UFOs - whilst flying a bomber mission during WWII. As the story takes in the events at Roswell in 1947, government conspiracies and the legacy of an alien visitor, the three families at the heart of the story encompass three very different attitudes to the existence of aliens.
"These are stories about incredible things that happen to ordinary people. From a storytelling point of view, those are the most interesting stories to tell. [...] I always knew that there would be three points of view," says Frank Bohem, the writer. "I wanted to look at an ordinary family, like the Keys, whose lives are ripped apart by this. The Clarkes, specifically Tom Clarke, came about, in part, because I was fascinated by debunkers and I've never really seen much about debunkers. And I was interested in including an off-centered look at what might be going on inside the government, which I got with the Crawfords."
The programme looks beautiful - there is an extraordinary attention to period detail in the sets and costumes, and despite the fact that much of the show was shot in and around Vancouver, Canada, the team recreated locations as diverse as Texas and Alaska.
Then there are the special effects - alien 'greys', spaceships, otherworldly artifacts... The production team had their own special effects unit and had constant feedback from Steven Spielberg himself. Visual Effects Supervisor, Jim Lima, notes:
"I had very extensive meetings with Steven Spielberg about the aliens, discussing the lore and the mythology and the accounts of people who have reported to have seen aliens. Steven has an amazing knowledge in this area, because when he did Close Encounters, he went and interviewed these people and had heard these things first-hand. [...]. During production, we sent out tapes every week and Steven was always copied on those tapes and when his comments came back, they were always spot on. We are so fortunate to be working for the absolute master of science fiction."