There are fairly obvious compromises. A criminal can be a useful addition to society if he knows how to cook, bringing some solace to everyday life — and if he’s developed a better theory of fighting the invaders. We’ll tolerate deviant behavior by doctors if they lead to medical innovation that can be an effective response to new threats. Shreds of normality, like a skateboard, can unify entire communities. Thank God America manufactured so much canned food.
But one of the things that’s most interesting to me so far is the debate over whether academic knowledge and theory or military expertise matter more in the current environment. That conflict’s embodied by Tom Mason (Noah Wyle, finally finding a decent outlet for his penchant for playing bookish action heroes), a military history professor, and Captain Weaver (Will Patton), an actual veteran of both the armed forces and the military reserves. Mason’s not a fantastic commander: he gets his squad captured, he brings back an alien prisoner of war without a sense of whether it’ll be feasible or wise to hold one, and it’s not necessarily clear that his theories about whether the Skitters (as the invaders are known) can be harassed off Earth the same way the British were harassed out of the colonies during the Revolutionary War carry water. But Mason does understand that in order to win, the human survivors need more than a military campaign, telling one of his fellow survivors, “I think civilians are a liability and a hindrance. I also think they’re the best motivation we have to fight.” When he has to choose what books he wants to take with him, he picks A Tale of Two Cities.