|Format||Action, drama, thriller, science fiction|
|Created by||J. J. Abrams|
with Lena Olin
and Victor Garber
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||105
(+1 animated short)
|Location(s)||Walt Disney Studios, Burbank, California (primary shooting)|
|Running time||40 – 42 minutes|
|Original run||September 30, 2001– May 22, 2006|
Alias is an American action television series created by J. J. Abrams which was broadcast on ABC for five seasons, from September 30, 2001 to May 22, 2006. It stars Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, a CIA agent.
The main theme of the series explores Sydney's obligation to conceal her true career from her friends and family, even as she assumes multiple aliases to carry out her missions. These themes are most prevalent in the first two seasons of the show. A major plotline of the series was the search for and recovery of artifacts created by Milo Rambaldi, a Renaissance-era character with similarities to both Leonardo da Vinci and Nostradamus. This plot and some technologies used in the series pushed Alias into the genre of science fiction.
Alias featured an ensemble cast portraying the various people in Sydney's life. During the course of the series, every main character becomes involved in the world of espionage in some form or another.
In addition, Alias also featured several known actors and celebrities in a various roles ranging from appearances in one episode to semi-recurring. Some of the most notable include Ethan Hawke as James Lennox, Quentin Tarantino as McKenas Cole, David Cronenberg as Dr. Brezzel, Djimon Hounsou as Kazari Bomani, Christian Slater as Neil Caplan, Peggy Lipton as Olivia Reed, Raymond J. Barry as Senator George Reed, Ricky Gervais as Daniel Ryan, Peter Berg as Noah Hicks, David Carradine as Conrad, Faye Dunaway as Ariana Kane, Sir Roger Moore as Edward Poole, Rutger Hauer as Anthony Geiger, Vivica A. Fox as Toni Cummings, John Hannah as Martin Shepard, Richard Lewis as Counter Intelligence Analyst Mitchell Yaeger, Jason Segel as Sam Hauser, Griffin Dunne as Leonid Lisenker and Richard Roundtree as Thomas Brill.
Produced by Touchstone Television and Bad Robot Productions, film production primarily took place in the greater Los Angeles area. Studio shooting primarily took place at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, along with some outdoor shots near some of the studio's famous buildings (such as the original Animation Building or the ABC building, which appeared as a building in Hong Kong in the season 1 episode "The Coup"). Despite its worldwide locales, only one episode was ever filmed outside the Los Angeles region, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Seven years before season 1, Sydney Bristow was an undergraduate student of English literature when she was approached with a job offer by someone claiming to work for SD-6, which was supposedly part of the Central Intelligence Agency. She accepted the offer, and quickly became a field agent. In the pilot, she tells her fiancé Danny that she is a spy. As a result of revealing SD-6's existence to an outsider, her fiancé is murdered by SD-6.
It is then that Sydney is told by her father Jack Bristow (another SD-6 agent) that SD-6 is not part of the CIA; instead, it is part of the Alliance of Twelve, an organization that is an enemy to the United States. Sydney decides to offer her services to the real CIA as a double agent. She learns that her father is also a double agent for the CIA, when he notifies her that her offer is accepted. She begins the long and arduous task of destroying SD-6 from the inside.
Major plotlines from season 1 include Sydney hiding her triple-identity from her friends, both in her personal life and in her SD-6 job, Will Tippin's investigation into Danny's death, and the past antics of Sydney's mother. Sub-plots included Sydney's friendship with Francie, Francie's romantic relationship with Charlie, and Sydney's developing relationship with her CIA handler Michael Vaughn, of whom she is skeptical at first but grows to trust as her life becomes increasingly stressful. Season One focuses on the development of Sydney's character, and allows the audience to become familiar with her. The other seasons share the feature of having a guest star who appears throughout the entire season.
The second season begins with the introduction of Irina Derevko, Sydney's mother, who soon becomes a vital part of the series. Midway through the second season, the series underwent a "reboot" of sorts with Sydney successfully destroying SD-6 (after gathering valuable intelligence for tactical strikes from an airborne SD-6 server) and becoming a regular agent for the CIA, still in pursuit of former SD-6 leader Arvin Sloane, his associate Julian Sark, and the Rambaldi artifacts. Sydney's friends at SD-6, Marcus Dixon and Marshall Flinkman, are finally made aware of her dual identity and recruited into the CIA. Sydney also begins a romantic relationship with Vaughn, now that their relationship will not endanger them.
In the second half of the season, it is revealed that Francie Calfo, Sydney's best friend, was murdered and replaced by Allison Doren, a woman who was transfigured to look exactly like her. Allison was then in a position to spy on Sydney and Will. The end of the season saw Will possibly murdered and Sydney killing Allison and then falling unconscious. Sydney awakens two years later in Hong Kong, unable to remember the two years that have passed. She soon learns that her friends and the CIA believed her to be dead, and Vaughn found a new love and is now married.
The third season takes place two years after the events of season 2, with Sydney having been missing and presumed dead. DNA evidence in a badly burned body confirmed her death to her family and friends.
The truth, however, is that Sydney was kidnapped by a terrorist organization called The Covenant, who tried to brainwash her into believing she was an assassin named Julia Thorne. Eventually Sydney voluntarily had her memories of the two years erased in an attempt to forget some of the deeds she was forced to undertake as Julia and to ensure that one of Rambaldi's most dangerous artifacts would never be found.
As Sydney recovers, she begins investigating her absence while reintegrating into the CIA. There she deals with the facts that Arvin Sloane had become a world-renowned humanitarian after being pardoned, and that Michael Vaughn had married NSC agent Lauren Reed. Reed is later revealed to be a member of the Covenant and a lover of Julian Sark. The National Security Council plays a role as a government organization that holds massive unsupervised power, with a Guantanamo-like detention facility, considerable influence over the CIA, and driven by questionable motives. Sydney later discovers that her mother and Arvin Sloane had a child together, the result of an affair between the two years earlier. She locates her half-sister, Nadia, and rescues her from being killed by the Covenant.
At the end of the season, Sydney goes on a mission and encounters Lauren. After they battle, Lauren begins to taunt Sydney by saying she has information about her past. When Vaughn shows up, Sydney goes to him, leaving Lauren a chance to attack again. Vaughn shoots Lauren, and she dies, but before she does she gives Sydney the number of a security deposit box where she can find information about her past.
Season 4 begins where season three ended with Sydney uncovering a shocking, classified document called "S.A.B. 47 Project." It is explained that the document authorizes Jack Bristow to execute Sydney's mother, who had mysteriously placed a contract on Sydney's life (this was apparently something of a retcon to cover for actress Lena Olin's presumed not returning to the series, as the first page refers to Sydney as the "active" subject of a "project" that began April 17, 1975, a possible reference to Project Christmas, and also setting up Jack as either the real head of, or somehow involved with, the Covenant and/or being a descendant of Rambaldi/Rambaldi himself).
Sydney joins a black ops division of the CIA, patterned after SD-6 and run by her one-time nemesis Arvin Sloane. The new division is dubbed "APO": Authorized Personnel Only. Members of APO (all hand-picked by Sloane) include almost all of the recurring characters from previous seasons, including Jack, Vaughn, Sydney's former partner (and third season CIA director) Marcus Dixon, the computer and technical genius, Marshall Flinkman, and Vaughn's best friend Eric Weiss (brought in after having to be rescued by Sydney and Vaughn, who he previously believed to have left the CIA). Sloane's daughter and Sydney's half-sister Nadia Santos also eventually returns to join APO.
During the season, an Arvin Sloane impostor, jokingly identified as "Arvin Clone," acquired the technology to implement a Rambaldi-predicted apocalypse. Using Omnifam, the real Sloane had polluted the world's drinking water with chemicals that caused feelings of peace and tranquility. However, these feelings can be reversed with the Mueller device. The third Derevko sister, Elena, had built a giant Mueller device in Sovogda, Russia, which drove the residents to insanity. Sydney, Jack, Irina, Nadia, and Vaughn parachute in, destroy the device and kill Elena. But Nadia is injected with the tainted water and driven insane. She battles Sydney until Sloane is forced to shoot his own daughter. Nadia is later put into a coma while a cure is sought and Irina escapes again.
The season concludes with Sydney and Vaughn becoming engaged. On a trip to Santa Barbara, Vaughn confides a shocking secret: his name isn't really Michael Vaughn; their initial meeting wasn't coincidental; and that his allegiance may not be to the CIA. Before he can divulge any more information, another car hits theirs and the season ends.
As season five begins, Vaughn is abducted. Sydney learns that Vaughn is under suspicion of being a double agent and that the crash may have been a cover for his extraction. Vaughn later escapes and explains to Sydney that his real name is André Michaux. He reveals that he is investigating a secret operation known as Prophet Five, which at one point involved his father. During a mission in recovering a Prophet Five book, Sydney receives a phone call from her doctor with some untimely news – she's pregnant. (This development was created to deal with the actress' real-life pregnancy.). Vaughn is later shot, and apparently killed, on orders of Prophet Five operative Gordon Dean. Four months later, as Sydney continues to investigate Vaughn's murder, she works with an assassin and associate of his, Renée Rienne, in order to unearth the inner workings of Prophet Five, while at the same time trailing Dean and his criminal organization "The Shed," disguised as a black ops CIA division, very much like SD-6.
Two new members are added to APO to replace Weiss, who moved to Washington, D.C. for a new job, and Nadia, who is still in a coma. Thomas Grace is a brash young agent with unorthodox methods who often butts heads with Sydney. Rachel Gibson is a computer specialist who, like Sydney, was deceived into thinking she was working for the real CIA and briefly works as a mole within The Shed, as did Sydney within SD-6, before The Shed's destruction by Dean.
In an ongoing subplot, Arvin Sloane follows his own personal obsession, finding a cure for Nadia. Sloane is jailed for his actions during Season 4; however, he is released after the sentencing committee is manipulated by Dean. In exchange for his freedom, Sloane is now working for Dean as a mole within APO. Unaware of Sloane's new allegiance, Jack agrees to let Sloane rejoin APO and use its resources to seek a cure for his daughter.
With the series' end, it emerges that Sloane's ultimate goal is that of immortality, for which he sacrifices Nadia's life. However, he is trapped forever in Rambaldi's tomb by a critically wounded Jack, who sacrifices himself to avenge all the pain Sloane caused Sydney over the years. Sydney tracks Sark and the Horizon to Hong Kong, finding Irina. After a final battle between them, Irina plunges to her death.
The series ends with a flash forward to several years in the future. Sydney and Vaughn are semi-retired and married, with a second child named Jack in honour of Sydney's father. Daughter Isabelle exhibits the same ability to complete the CIA test that marked Sydney's inborn skills to be an ideal agent at that age. However after completing the puzzle she casually knocks it over, perhaps signalling that she will not follow in her mother's footsteps.
Alias is unusual for an American drama series in that the opening credits do not run until the end of the first long act, sometimes as late as 19 minutes into the episode. In some respects, this mimics the James Bond films, which likewise feature sometimes-lengthy pre-credits sequences. Depending on the demands of a particular episode, the credit sequence is occasionally dropped as the actor credits play over a scene; on those occasions, the series title does not appear on screen until the final fade out.
As the opening credits appear, the letters in the Alias reference flash in negative form one by one. The "S" is the last letter to appear, this time in permanent negative. In virtually every episode, the title of a city or town location will slowly zoom in, with one letter being shown in negative and a specific scene appearing within that negative. As it usually does with the "S" in the show title at the very start, this letter eventually takes up the entire screen and gives way to the scene itself.
The first three seasons used a minimalist credit sequence consisting only of the actors names appearing as the title Alias gradually forms in one corner of an otherwise black screen. For one frame in Seasons 1 and 3 during Victor Garber's credit, the Rambaldi "eye" symbol ( <o> ) flashes over the Alias title, accompanied by a short "whooshing" sound; In Season 2, it flashes during Lena Olin's credit. In season 5 it flashes during Balthazar Getty's credit.
For the fourth season, a shorter, flashier credit sequence was introduced that used a new, remixed version of the theme. As the cast names appeared, 52 images of Sydney in 47 various disguises appear in rapid succession, ending with a shot from the third season premiere of her shooting a miniature grenade launcher.
For the fifth season, another credit sequence was designed, as the previous version was criticized for making it difficult to read the actors' names (since the eye was drawn to the many images of Jennifer Garner) and for focusing exclusively on Garner. Now for the first time, the actors are shown on screen as their names appear. The same remix of the theme music from the previous year is utilized. Also, the flashing of the letters when ALIAS is spelled out is actually in morse code. The flashing translates to AGENT KANE (who was a character in the 2nd season played by Faye Dunaway). During the first half of the season, Elodie Bouchez appeared in the opening credits, but beginning with the episode "S.O.S." her credit was changed to a "special guest star" credit outside the opening sequence and Amy Acker was added to the opening credits in place of Bouchez.
Most episodes in the first season included a prologue narrated by Sydney Bristow, setting up the premise of the series. In the first half of season two this was replaced by a voiceover by Greg Grunberg (who plays Agent Weiss) and later in season 2 was dropped entirely.
The events of the first season of Alias begin in 2001, the same year the series first aired. A reference to Homeland security midway through the first season suggests the series begins not long before, or not long after September 11. (The series, in fact, premiered 19 days following the 9/11 attacks.) Though there was reference to such a part of government, the federal Homeland Security department was not established until 2003. (Aside from the Homeland Security reference, there is no explicit reference to 9/11 in the first season; however, there is a reference to Osama bin Laden and a reference to the War on Terror in two episodes in season 2). In season 1, each episode covers roughly the events of one week in Sydney's life, thus each episode is said to take place a week apart, although this pattern was not maintained throughout the series. In several episodes, references were made to actual real world events. For example, in one episode, Sydney suggested to Vaughn that they should catch a L.A. Kings game, and that they'd be taking on the Islanders. This actual game took place roughly around the same time the episode was broadcast on January 20, 2002.
The season 2 finale, which sees Sydney lose two years of her life, would suggest that the series as of the start of season 3 takes place two years ahead of "real world" time, however the series was not always consistent in maintaining this. For example, in season 3 episode 17 (airdate 3/28/04), the date 3/26/04 was shown on Lauren's event calendar. For most of the episodes in Season 3–4, the writers avoided mentioning any current calendar dates in any episode. The one fact that did contradict this was the date on the tombstone of the supposedly dead Irina Derevko, which, when calculated, would suggest that the show was still running on "real world" time rather than 2 years in the future. However, a statement made by Sydney in the fifth season premiere "Prophet 5" regarding the length of time since she first went undercover at SD-6, is in keeping with the established timeline. And finally, the timeline seems to jump back one more time. In the season 5 episode "Out of the Box", character Renee tells Dr. Desantis, the genetic double of her father from the cryogenic box that it is currently 2006. This appears to be the first direct reference to the actual date of events. In another episode of the same season, a hockey magazine received by Sydney indicates the year to be November 2005. Also in season five , Nadia Santos' hospital admission bracelet following her recovery in the episode "30 Seconds" reads "04-23-05" and she mentions that it has almost been a year since she was hospitalized.
No time elapses between the end of season 1 and the beginning of season 2, and there are two years, one month, and several hours between seasons 2 and 3, 3 and 4, and 4 and 5 respectively (in addition, the events of the season 5 premiere episode take place over the course of 4 months). Given that there were roughly three to four months between the airing of the first few seasons, an 8-month interval between the broadcast of seasons 3 and 4, and a 4-month hiatus in the midst of season 5, by the final season Alias would only be a matter of months ahead of real-world time, making the 2006 statement plausible in the timeline. The series finale makes a further jump forward of several years (circa 2014 based upon the age of Sydney's daughter).
Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Alias on ABC.
Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.
(Eastern & Pacific Time)
|Season Premiere||Season Finale||TV Season||Ranking||Viewers
|1||Sunday 9:00 PM (September 30, 2001 – May 12, 2002)||September 30, 2001||May 12, 2002||2001–2002||#58||9.7|
|2||Sunday 9:00 PM (September 29, 2002 – May 4, 2003)||September 29, 2002||May 4, 2003||2002–2003||#78||9.0|
|3||Sunday 9:00 PM (September 28, 2003 – May 23, 2004)||September 28, 2003||May 23, 2004||2003–2004||#78||8.2|
|4||Wednesday 9:00 PM (January 5, 2005 – May 25, 2005)||January 5, 2005||May 25, 2005||2004–2005||#40||10.3|
|5||Thursday 8:00 PM (September 29, 2005 – November 17, 2005)
Wednesday 10:00 PM (December 7, 2005 – December 14, 2005)
Wednesday 8:00 PM (April 19, 2006 – May 17, 2006)
Monday 9:00 PM (May 22, 2006)
|September 29, 2005||May 22, 2006||2005–2006||#93||7.2|
Although Alias was never considered a major "hit", its series run began during a time when the ABC television network was in decline, after Who Wants to Be a Millionaire saw its ratings plummet. In fact, Alias was one of the first shows to be placed in one of the old Who Wants to Be a Millionaire timeslots, which were Sunday nights at 9 p.m. (Eastern & Pacific time) in late 2001. Unlike many of the programs on ABC from 2001–2003, Alias was a series that garnered critical buzz, a cult following, and decent viewing numbers in the advertiser-friendly age 18–49 demographic. This led to ABC keeping the series on its schedule for 5 years.
Despite earning critical acclaim from USA Today for the January 26, 2003 episode entitled "Phase One" and attracting the largest audience of the series with 17.4 million viewers, this episode retained just 19 percent of the Super Bowl XXXVII audience and has the dubious distinction of earning the lowest overall ratings for a program airing after a Super Bowl since at least 1987 and the lowest rating ever (8.3 rating) in the age 18–49 demographic for a post-Super Bowl program. Also, since the episode started airing at 11 p.m. on the East Coast, it was not eligible for the week's list of top primetime shows ranked by Nielsen Media Research and thus, the episode's viewership numbers were not factored in the series' overall 2002–2003 season average.
Its ratings peak was reached in its fourth season, when ABC moved the program to Wednesdays 9 p.m. (Eastern & Pacific time), the time slot following another (yet more successful) J. J. Abrams' drama, Lost, while airing the season's episodes in (almost) consecutive weeks beginning with the January 5, 2005 2-hour season premiere (watched by 15.8 million viewers; the second most-watched episode in the series) and ending in May 2005. However, the fourth season was the only season in which this near-consecutive-week schedule was used and the increase in audience numbers was minimal since it faced hefty timeslot competition from the results show of the fourth season of Fox's mega-hit American Idol.
Coming off its most-watched season, Alias was moved to Thursdays 8 p.m. (Eastern & Pacific time) in the fall of 2005 by ABC in an effort to invigorate the network's lackluster Thursday night lineup. However, the move proved unsuccessful for the series, receiving the lowest viewership in the show's history. Alias became another scripted show in the history of ABC to not survive more than a year in this timeslot since Mork & Mindy was cancelled in 1982. (other ABC shows experiencing this Thursday 8 p.m. fate: Joanie Loves Chachi, The Fall Guy, Sledge Hammer!, Knightwatch, Mission: Impossible, Father Dowling Mysteries, Delta, My So-Called Life, Vengeance Unlimited, Threat Matrix)
ABC gave the show a 4-month hiatus (to allow Jennifer Garner to give birth) and when it was brought back in April 2006, its new timeslot was Wednesdays at 8 p.m. However, the viewer numbers remained dismal, culminating in a 2-hour series finale airing on Monday, May 22, 2006 (against the season finales of the hit dramas, Fox's 24 and CBS' CSI: Miami) which attracted 6.68 million viewers. In comparison, the first season averaged 9.7 million viewers.
The Alias production team has participated in at least two spoofs based upon the series and featuring cast members.
Other spoofs and humorous references include:
The program was renowned for the vast array of hair styles adopted by the characters. Head Hair Designer Michael Reitz was nominated for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series at the Emmys 5 years in a row (2002–2006); as well as 3 nominations and 1 win at the Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards.
Notable contributions to the hair stylist team include:
Alias released a season one soundtrack containing 26 tracks. These tracks were tracks used in the show, including the opening theme. All of them are composed by Michael Giacchino, except for the opening theme which was composed by J.J. Abrams. The tracks share a similar dance genre, however a few tracks, such as 'In the Garden' share more of a slowed down tempo. A second Soundtrack was also released containing music from the second season, but didn't receive as much praise as the first soundtrack. A soundtrack for Alias: The Video Game was also released, but can only be downloaded online, and is composed by Chris Tilton.
The video game Alias, based on the series, is a third-person stealth action title developed and released by Acclaim Entertainment for the PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The plot was written by the creators of the show and the game features the voices of the cast principals. It was released on April 6, 2004, and has a rating of ESRB|T for Teen. The game is set between episodes 19 and 20 of season 2. The game allows the player to be Sydney (and briefly on one mission Vaughn), and sends her on various missions to many different locations. The missions become more difficult as you come closer to finishing the game. The game includes using many spy-skills that Sydney uses in the show.
Prior to the Acclaim release, ABC Television produced an episodic downloadable videogame entitled Alias: Underground which is available through ABC's website. The game was a 3D third-person stealth action game much like the Acclaim production, with missions released monthly during the original broadcast of the TV show's second season.
A number of original novels based upon the series have been published, primarily for a teenage reading audience. Due to the intricate and story arc-based nature of the series, most novels published to date have been prequels to the series, some focusing on Sydney in her early missions for SD-6, and others focusing on Vaughn's missions before meeting her. Their canon status with regards to the televised series has yet to be determined. Although aimed at young readers, the books tackle serious subject matter, such as one volume which details the first time Sydney kills someone.
The second series of novels, titled "The APO Series", fit into the season four timeframe and are published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment.
Alias (2001–2006) was an American television show, airing on ABC, created by J.J. Abrams, about Sydney Bristow, an international spy recruited out of college and trained for espionage and self-defense.
|Season 1||Season 2||Season 3||Season 4||Season 5|
|Truth Be Told||Enemy Walks In||The Two||Authorized (1)||Prophet Five|
|So It Begins||Trust Me||Succession||Authorized (2)||...1...|
|Parity||Cipher||Reunion||Awful Truth||The Shed|
|Broken Heart||Dead Drop||A Missing Link||Ice||Mockingbird|
|Doppelgänger||Indicator||Repercussions||Liberty Village||Out of the Box|
|Time Will Tell||Passage (1)||Breaking Point||Echoes||Bob|
|Mea Culpa||Passage (2)||Conscious||Man Of His Word||The Horizon|
|Confession||Higher Echelon||Full Disclosure||The Road Home||Maternal Instinct|
|The Box (1)||Getaway||Crossings||The Orphan||Only One Sydney|
|The Box (2)||Phase One||After Six||Tuesday||30 Seconds|
|The Coup||Double Agent||Blowback||Nightingale||Dead People|
|Page 47||Free Agent||Facade||Pandora||No Hard Feelings|
|Q & A||Dark Turn||The Frame||Clean Conscience||All the Time|
|Masquerade||Truth Takes Time||Unveiled||Mirage|
|Solution||Countdown||Blood Ties||The Descent|
|Rendezvous||Second Double||Legacy||Search & Rescue|
|Almost 30 Years||Telling||Resurrection||Before the Flood|
|Cast||External links||See also|
[Note: Quotes in italics are from Sydney's dream.]