Picks and Pans Review: Taken

updated 12/02/2002 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/02/2002 01:00AM

Sci Fi Channel (Mon.-Fri., Dec. 2-6 and Dec. 9-13, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

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Glowing spaceships and gray aliens are important in Taken, a 10-part, 20-hour epic from executive producer Steven Spielberg. But it's the character development that will catch you up. The story spans more than a half century—forcing some actors to simulate aging with lumpy makeup—and follows three families shaped by their contacts with extraterrestrials.

Aliens abduct pilot Russell Keys (Steve Burton) during World War II and repeatedly thereafter, until turning their attention to his son and grandson. Lonely Sally Clarke (The Shield's Catherine Dent) has a one-night stand with a stranger who turns out to be an alien (Eric Close from Without a Trace). The result: a son with special powers that make him a government target. The boy's chief pursuer is ruthless Army Col. Owen Crawford (chillingly portrayed by Joel Gretsch), whose son and granddaughter inherit his obsession with flying saucers. Ultimately all plotlines lead to Allie, a human-alien girl played with remarkable poise and intelligence by 8-year-old Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam).

Part 4 bogs down in an Alaskan archeological dig; the ending is drawn out and tainted by Spielbergian schmaltz. I can't vouch for the special effects, because they were largely unfinished in the advance tapes from Sci Fi Channel. Nevertheless, Taken is filled with strong emotions and provocative thoughts, many of them voiced by Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) as a scientist who'd be a thorough villain if not for his sense of wonder. "Sit back and enjoy the show," he says to a fuming military man (James McDaniel). Take his advice.

BOTTOM LINE: Go with it

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