If the second season of “Falling Skies” feels different than the first, that might be because it has a different producer. Robert Rodat created the show and Mark Verheiden ran the first season.
Now it’s Remi Aubuchon, veteran producer from shows like “Stargate Universe,” “Caprica” and “24.” I got to sit with him at Zoic Studios, the producers of the show’s visual effects, and learn exactly what he inherited and how he took the show in a new direction this year. Aubuchon even dropped a few hints about Terry O`Quinn's character in this weekend's second season finale.
CraveOnline: What sort of bible did Mark Verheiden and Robert Rodat leave you with?
Remi Aubuchon: Sort of a sketchy one, but I think that Bob in particular had worked out a lot of character biography and a lot of notions about what and how the characters would interact, but not a lot about the story in terms of where he necessarily saw the story going.
I invited Bob actually into the writer’s room at the beginning of the season. He hung out with us for about a week and we picked his brain and we played together. Mark who eventually joined us for this season, had come on and he had some notions about it. But kind of the second season I think was fairly a clean slate in terms of what they left us with in the first season.
CraveOnline: When you saw Tom get on the ship in the season finale, did you think, “Come on, man?”
Remi Aubuchon: I was actually surprised about it. I was kind of sequestered in a small room on a Saturday and I watched all the episodes, because none of them had aired yet. I was sort of going, “Okay, okay, I get it, I get it, I get it.” And when I got to the end there, that surprised the hell out of me.
At first it concerned me because how do you get yourself out of those kinds of things but I think we found our way out. I’m not completely answering your question but what I’m trying to say is that I certainly had an “oh s**t” moment and “what do I do now?”
But I think those are sometimes the most fun to have because they really make you think. I probably would have been a little disappointed if I had just gone, “Oh, okay, is that all there is?” In the end I think we got ourselves out of that in a fairly interesting way.
CraveOnline: Did they write that with no ideas for how they’d resolve it in a second season?
Remi Aubuchon: I think they had some notions but I would have to say that they were pretty vague. Look, I understand sometimes that what you do a lot when you’re writing a show is you’re looking for the cool thing that’s going to get the audience to come back, and I certainly think they opened up a lot of discussion with our audience with that ending. I don’t necessarily think that that’s exactly what they had planned to do. Maybe Mark will say, “Oh no, I knew I was going to do that the whole time” but I don’t think so.
CraveOnline: How would you define the themes of the second season?
Remi Aubuchon: The first season is about our people coping and dealing with a huge trauma and not quite knowing where they fit into the world, what their lives are, what they’re supposed to do. So much of Tom’s focus in the first season is about keeping his family together, keeping them safe, trying to preserve some kind of semblance of what their lives were like prior to the invasion.
The second season is more about hunkering down and realizing oh no, this is our way of life. This is what we’re going to have to be dealing with for the rest of our lives. Our lives will never be the same again. I better figure out what we’re going to do. And I think that immediately changes the energy of the storytelling when all of a sudden we realized, “Look, we have nothing to lose. We’ve got to take this fight to the enemy. We’re going to be more mobile, we’re going to be sniping and we’re going to be fighting.”
I think when Tom gets off the ship, I think he comes away from that experience realizing, “Oh no, these are really bad guys. We have to do something and we have to do something now.”
CraveOnline: I love when they have to find supplies and raid the warehouses. What supplies are left for them to find now?
Remi Aubuchon: This is one of the reasons why they’re more mobile but their resources have dwindled considerably and we play that quite a bit in the second season. They don’t always know what they’re going to do and they’ve learned successfully to ration food and stuff but I think you’re right. There’s something fun about finding the resources.
One of the big choices that we made is that they’ve ran out of mech bullets and they haven’t had an opportunity to supply them with their magic bullets anymore, so they have to rely once again on the ordinance that is available to them. We start out the season off camera with the idea that they eventually had raided a large cache of weapons and ammunition, but they no longer have the ability to have these bullets that will be able to rip through a mech.
CraveOnline: Tell us about the character Terry O’Quinn is going to play.
Remi Aubuchon: I won’t reveal too much, but… there’s a new government that is forming in Charleston, South Carolina. Though there’s been much conflict about it, we decide to go there. Eventually when we do get there, Terry is actually the head of that place. Doesn’t go quite as well as planned but that’s it. That’s all I really feel comfortable talking about. It was very fun to work with him.
CraveOnline: Will we still see more new aliens?
Remi Aubuchon: Oh, I would count on it but I also think what’s important is that we really dig into the mythology of the aliens that we’ve seen. We get to know more about the aliens that have been introduced in the first season than we did in the first season. But there are almost certainly more aliens coming.
CraveOnline: Do you have any thoughts on visiting their planet in some way?
Remi Aubuchon: Haven’t thought about that. One of the things that I loved about one of the rules that Steven [Spielberg] gave us at the beginning of this is that we only learn about the aliens through the eyes of the 2nd Mass.
The battle is for our planet and the survival of the human race. That’s where the story lives, so I’m not sure what the advantage of the storytelling would be to go to their planet. I’m certainly fascinated by it and I’d love to learn more about it, but I don't think we’ll actually take a trip to learn about that.
CraveOnline: How is producing a sci-fi show on TNT vs. Syfy?
Remi Aubuchon: It’s interesting because this is the first real show like this that TNT has ever done so it’s a learning experience for them. People tune into the Syfy channel to see science fiction. Part of what the challenge is, having talked to them about that, is how do they mix that up?
TNT doesn’t have those constraints so in many ways it’s given us an opportunity to be a little broader in our thinking. This is a mixed genre show in way. It’s certainly a science fiction show but it’s also really in some ways a family drama.
That’s a challenge to try and figure out how that works, and I think we’ve got plenty of fun science fiction stuff. Most of the people who work on the show in the writer’s room are science fiction geeks and we love it all, but at the heart of every episode and every story that we tell, it’s got an emotional core to it and we’re very interested in how human beings are coping with and dealing with the world they’ve been given.
CraveOnline: How do you decide what kind of other humans our characters will meet along the way?
Remi Aubuchon: I think the fun thing about it is that we have a very narrow view of how humans are surviving with the 2nd Mass. We know our group. Hopefully we’ve given the audience a feel of what it’s like to be inside of the 2nd Mass and to be dealing with what they’re dealing with.
They feel very isolated so when they do come upon the group, and they do a couple times in this season, all of a sudden to see A, how other people are surviving, some good, some bad, like we saw in the first season with running into Pope and eventually running into the sanctuary people, some people have different strategies of coping and surviving. It’s a human drama.
CraveOnline: We’re starting to see some main characters die. Can that also be a trap because you don’t want killing someone to be a stunt?
Remi Aubuchon: That’s right. We tried very carefully to do that. You and the audience will be the judge to see if we’re successful on that but I do think there was nothing gratuitous or capricious about any of the deaths that happen.
It’s a tough world and everybody is well aware of the fact that you could die at any minute, that a skitter could come around the corner and rip your head off. I think it would be unfair to just keep talking about that. I think every once in a while we have to see it, and I think that to just kill off a guest star for the episode is not fair. So yes, we’re going to see some people killed.
CraveOnline: Where was the hangar location that you used for a few episodes?
Remi Aubuchon: Well, we shot this whole season in Vancouver. This is my third show that I’ve done in Vancouver and one of the things that I love about Vancouver is that there are so many different locations. You literally only have to go a few miles and you’re in completely different environments. So we were able to play Vancouver as several different locations during the course of this journey that they’re on.
CraveOnline: How are the battles of season two different than season one?
Remi Aubuchon: One of the things that we explore a little more this season is what the alien strategy is. Mainly the overlords, those big tall guys. We also came to realize in the first season that the skitters are not in charge as we assumed they were.
We thought they were the invading group, but no, it turns out that they take orders from someone else. Figuring that out and also what the harnessing of our children, how does that fit into what they’re doing, that will be revealed more. That will in some way shape the battles. The 2nd Mass’s strategy has figured out how to fight the aliens better so they have strategies where they lure the skitters in to kill them. That only works for a little while, until it turns on them.
CraveOnline: Did you inherit the visual effects from season one that you could reuse?
Remi Aubuchon: That doesn’t work as well. That works in theory. It doesn’t work that well when you’re trying to practically do it. Certainly there are some things that we were able to reuse but having come off of “Stargate Universe” where we were able to repurpose things a lot because we were in a ship in outer space.
There’s just so many flybys you can do. We found that moving skitters around and mechs and overlord was a little more complicated than that. We did reuse some but we actually designed quite a number of new elements for this season.
CraveOnline: What would the third season of “Stargate Universe” and second season of “Caprica” have been like?
Remi Aubuchon: Oh, gosh. I’m not Brad Wright and Robert Cooper so I can’t say what it is. I was just telling someone the other day that my opinion and my opinion only, the biggest mistake that was made for “Stargate Universe” was putting Stargate in front of the name. Brad and Rob had I think an ambitious and great idea to just take the mythology of “Stargate” and create a whole new story out of that. I think that fans were the most disappointed in it not seeming enough like their cousins.
We didn’t talk about it too much but Brad clearly had a sense of a notion that this group of people were actually going to become the new seed of human life. I thought there were some really interesting ideas that he pitched out. It was a great idea and franchise I thought. I was very attracted to it. I loved the idea that suddenly we were thrown onto an ancient ship and didn’t know how to run it. There were lots of challenges so I don’t exactly know where they would’ve gone. I think Brad had some really good strong ideas about where he wanted to go with it.
For “Caprica,” it’s interesting for me because I created the show with Ron Moore and we had a notion of where we wanted [to go.] I wasn’t able to work on the first season because even though we had written a lot of ideas about what we wanted to do for the first season, and a lot of those were followed, by the time Syfy greenlit the series I was working on another show and couldn’t participate in it.
Just speaking honestly, I’m not so sure I would’ve gone in the direction that they went to towards the end of the first season. It was interesting, but it wasn’t where I wanted to go. I think we all know how the story ends in “Caprica.” It ends with the Cylons killing us all. We know that so the fun part of the story I always thought was how did we get there. How did that happen? I think we would’ve explored that more.
I always had this idea of doing sort of this rich man/poor man thing, that the Adamas were struggling, whereas the Graystones were this sort of established thing and that somehow together they accidentally create the end of humankind as we know it.
CraveOnline: Do you get to have anything to do with the “24” movie?
Remi Aubuchon: I don’t. I don’t have anything to do with it, but I’m really looking forward to seeing it, very much.