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Alien Nation

Entry updated 10 November 2023. Tagged: Film, TV.

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1. Film (1988). Twentieth Century Fox. Directed by Graham Baker. Produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Richard Kobritz. Written by Rockne S O'Bannon. Cast includes James Caan, Mandy Patinkin and Terence Stamp. 90 minutes. Colour.

Los Angeles (see California), 1991. The Newcomers, or "Slags", are 300,000 humanoid Aliens, Genetically Engineered for hard labour, survivors of a crashlanded slave Spaceship, grudgingly accepted but disliked by humans (see Race in SF), and ghettoized in the inner city. Working in partnership with a human (Caan), Sam Francisco (Patinkin) becomes the first alien police detective in LA. There are murders related to the use of alien Drugs. A stereotyped buddy-cop story follows, with an initially uneasy relationship between races deepening as tolerance is learned. This is an efficient, unambitious adventure film whose observations of racial bigotry towards cultural strangers – effectively "boat people" – are good-humoured but seldom rise above cliché (see Race in SF). The novelization is Alien Nation (1988) by Alan Dean Foster. A much darker rendering of the structure of this film is District 9 (2009), set in urban South Africa. [PN]

2. US tv series (1989-1990). Kenneth Johnson Productions for Fox Television. Cast includes Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint. 100 minutes pilot episode directed and written by Johnson, plus 21 50-minute episodes.

The short-lived television series that followed the film combined routine crime stories with mild Satire of Near-Future Los Angeles and lessons about civil rights. The bizarre-looking but adaptable Newcomers act and talk exactly like humans, portraying housewives, teenagers, used-car salesmen, criminals, police and other stereotypes. The exception is George (no longer Sam) Francisco, whose earnest, humourless approach and precise speech recall Spock of Star Trek. A few episodes involve the pregnancy of the male Newcomer hero. Johnson also produced the much harder-edged "V" (1983-1985). The cliffhanger ending of the series was not resolved until October 1994, when a well-made two-hour television movie, "Alien Nation: Dark Horizon" was broadcast on Fox TV, scripted by Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider. [MK]


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