Tube Talk: Sci-fi, drama and a dash of history

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

Whether you like sci-fi, history or gut-wrenching drama (or all of the above), you’re in luck.

Let’s start with history. PBS continues its ongoing Secrets of … documentary specials this weekend with Secrets of Underground London. They aren’t talking about Tube lines. Winston Churchill’s underground war room bunkers are almost as well known as the Tube, but did you know about London’s subterranean rivers and caves? Roman remains? Plague pits?

Of course, if you loved the old History series, Cities of the Underworld, you might already be familiar with some of the places shown in the PBS special. Even so, it should be interesting to get a new take on what lurks beneath London.

It’s no secret that my favorite new show last summer was Sundance’s quiet, slow-paced drama, Rectify. Its first season, all six episodes, focused on Daniel Holden (Aden Young) when he’s released from prison after new DNA evidence raises questions about his conviction of the rape and murder of his teen-age girlfriend 19 years before.

Daniel is out of step with the world around him, yet it’s unclear to viewers if that is the result of the shock of freedom, or if he’s always been the odd man out. His mother and sister support and trust him, his half-brother is a bit unsure of him. His step-brother loathes him and fears a mutual attraction between his wife and Daniel. And most of their small Georgia town wants Daniel back in prison, or worse. The first season ended with Daniel lying brutally beaten in a cemetery. Season two picks up shortly thereafter.

The best news? Rectify’s second season is 10 episodes long, so there’s more time to be drawn in by the mesmerizing story.

Defiance was last summer’s break-out hit for Syfy. The series is set 33 years in the future in a mining town called Defiance that was built on the remains of St. Louis after a “terraforming event” destroyed most of the city in 2030. Of course, all that happened long after the Votans started colonizing Earth.

An engaging backstory is only part of Defiance’s success story. A strong online component, including short webisodes, “historical” context, and a free online game ( that let fans immerse themselves even more in the rich world of alien species helped feed the fan frenzy last summer and maintained viewer interest in Defiance between seasons.

Like Defiance, TNT’s Falling Skies is a sci-fi drama, but some of the history mentioned in it is real. You see, before becoming a reluctant resistance leader, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) was an American history professor. Since the show’s first season, Tom has used his knowledge of historic battles and tactics to help the 2nd Mass evade, surprise and defeat the invading Espheni forces and attempt to broker an alliance with the Volm to defeat the Espheni. He proved to militia leaders why knowledge can be even more powerful than weapons.

Of course, by the end of last season, that alliance wasn’t going all too well, as the Espheni wanted to sequester the humans against their wishes. This season, we’ll learn where 2nd Mass members landed and what happens next.

Programming notes

Defiance’s season two premiere is Thursday, June 19, at 7 p.m. Central on Syfy, followed by Dominion’s series premiere.

Rectify’s season two premiere is Thursday, June 19, at 8 p.m. Central on Sundance.

Falling Skies’ season four premiere is Sunday, June 22, at 9 p.m. Central on TNT.

Secrets of Underground London airs Sunday, June 22, on PBS.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to

From the June 18-24, 2014, issue

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