Last night saw the premiere on Sky 1 of Colony, the latest genre series from prolific writer-producer Carlton Cuse, whose other credits include Lost, Bates Motel, The Strain and The Returned. The show aired on NBC’s USA Channel in America, where it finished its first season in March with a second season already confirmed.
Sharing showrunner duties with Cuse is Ryan J. Condal. A relative newcomer to Hollywood’s major league, Condal’s best known prior project was the screenplay for the 2014 movie Hercules, starring The Rock. Yet, Condal is no stranger to science fiction, having become a fan while growing up.
“It was the movies that drew me in, just because of the really immersive visual world,” Condal tells GeekTown during a Colony press conference. “Stories like Alien and Terminator and Aliens and Terminator 2 were huge influences on me. Anything really by James Cameron I would consider as a major influence on me. And then something that’s become really my favourite film later in life because I was able to wrap my head around it a little bit more was Blade Runner.”
Colony is set in a near-future Los Angeles occupied by an unseen but technologically advanced and apparently alien invader with unknown intentions. Although its undoubtedly sci-fi, the emphasis is less on special effects and more on family drama and the moral dilemmas facing people in a community under occupation. That was one of the reasons why Colony landed on USA rather than NBC’s specialty channel, Syfy, Condal explains.
“I think there’s a lot of really awesome programming on over there in the tradition sort of started by Battlestar Galactica – one of my favorite TV shows – but the sci-fi shows that are on Syfy now are much more kind of hard sci-fi, the things that really appeal to me as a fan but aren’t necessarily the kind of shows that grab audiences that don’t have a predisposition towards sci-fi. We really wanted Colony to appeal to a broad audience that was interested in some element to the show. So there’s going to be an element that’s drawn to the core family dynamic of the show that sees this as a drama set in a wartime place and there’s going to be an audience that’s drawn to the espionage elements of the show. We have sort of jokingly called the show the first spy-fi show and we like that.”
The espionage element that Condal refers to is a product of the opposing positions that the two principal characters find themselves in: one is collaborating with the authorities put in place by the invaders while the other is working undercover with the resistance. This is complicated by the fact that the former is ex-FBI agent Will Bowman, played by Josh Holloway, and the latter is his wife, Katie, played by The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies. Their conflicting agendas bring home the dilemma faced by anyone who has ever had to live under an oppressive and unforgiving dictatorship. Overlaying that with what, in the first season anyway, is essentially just a sheen of sci-fi, has allowed Condal and Cuse to make Colony more accessible to mainstream American viewers.
“No-one wants to make a show about Parisians living under Nazi occupation in Paris,” Condal says. “It’s not really practical for the US market, except maybe on Netflix or HBO. But retelling that story of occupation and colonization in a sci-fi context in modern-day Los Angeles with walls and drones, that makes it palatable and interesting to buyers and to audiences and lets us explore similar themes in a kind of brand new world.”
Colony airs Thursday nights at 9pm on Sky 1, and you can catch up with the first episode via Sky On Demand.