Taken is the ambitious mini-series about alien abductions produced by Steven Spielberg, who is no stranger to all things concerning little green men. In fact, I would go as far to call this an extension on the themes of his earlier film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The scope of the series is enormous, consisting of 10 episodes approximately 90 minutes in length, spanning 60 years from the 1940s to the present day revolving around the experiences of three families and the strain these abductions places upon them.
The story kicks off with the holy grail of all alien encounters, the incident in Roswell New Mexico in the 40s and winds its way along to the present day. There is plenty of government cover up and alien antics to keep even the most jaded X-Files fan happy. Dakota Fanning narrates each episode, and at the beginning the viewer is left a little uncertain as to the importance of her character (Allie) in the overall plot of the series. It isn't really until about the fourth episode in that the series really begins to hit its stride. This isn't a bad thing, it's just that the series takes its time getting there, a luxury afforded by the generous running time, no doubt.
The series is spread over 5 discs, each housing 2 episodes: -
Disc One: 1940s - 50s
Episode One: Beyond The Sky,
Episode Two: Jacob and Jesse
Disc Two: 1960s
Episode Three - High Hopes,
Episode Four - Acid Test
Disc Three: 1970s - 90s
Episode Five - Maintenance,
Episode Six - Charlie and Lisa
Disc Four: 'The Present' Part One
Episode Seven - God’s Equation,
Episode Eight - Dropping the Dishes
Disc Five: 'The Present' Part Two
Episode Nine - John,
Episode Ten - Taken
Taken features a reasonable cast of familiar faces, but nobody of any serious note, with the exception of young Dakota Fanning who is probably one of the most disturbingly gifted child actors this reviewer has seen since Haley Joel Osment last saw dead people. Given that Spielberg tapped Dakota to star opposite the Cruiser in the upcoming War of the Worlds remake, Taken was probably one big long casting call with Dakota pulling it off easily.
Taken is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio (16:9 Enhanced) as broadcast on the Sci-Fi channel in the States. As you would have come to expect from such a recent television show, the image is relatively good. The only thing that really stuck out was that the image tended to be a little soft and almost NTSC like in its appearance. Film grain is present throughout the series and is more noticeable in the darker scenes.
There are two streams of audio available, a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track that isn't flagged, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. You will need to engage EX decoding on your receiver to extract the surround back channel information. It isn't labelled on the covers but I can assure that it is as there, and makes prominent use of the extra channel throughout. The region 1 package doesn't state whether it is EX or not, but the region 2 package displays that it is Dolby EX. There is also a surround encoded Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which is adequate but lacks the depth and separation of the 5.1.
For this review I stuck with the discrete 5.1 track. From the opening episode, featuring WWII aerial battles, the soundtrack makes good use of all the available channels. Whilst the series isn't wall-to-wall action there is still plenty of surround use, with plenty of bass information that's sent to the LFE channel reinforcing the action & score. Dialogue was clear and free distortion.
For such a big event the extras are pretty thin, and to put it bluntly they're anaemic! The fact that it has been given its own disc makes the mind boggle, as I am sure it could have been squeezed onto one of the five discs in the set. All we are given is the 42 minute documentary Inside Taken, which is your usual behind the scenes fluff featuring interviews with series producer Steven Spielberg and the shows creator Leslie Bohem and the odd cast & crew member. Given that Spielberg was so keen on hiring 10 different directors to impart a unique vision for each episode I would have loved to hear a commentary from each discussing their involvement.
Taken is an enjoyable series, and the DVD medium is the best way to enjoy it. Giving you the time to either sit through in one marathon or spread it over a week or two, instead of the weekly episodic nature of event television. It's no easy task getting through the 14 odd hours Taken runs for, as essentially each episode is a mini 90-minute movie. But if you put the time aside you'll definitely enjoy the journey that it takes you on especially if you’re a fan of little green men and the X-Files in general.