On the eve of its rebranding from The Sci Fi Channel to SyFy (seriously guys, WTF?) the home of Battlestar Galactica has announced plans to revive another venerable TV show featuring the conflict and cooperation between humans and other beings: Alien Nation. Variety says Tim Minear (Angel/Firefly) is scripting, hewing close to concepts behind the original 1988 feature that spawned a season’s worth of episodic TV on Fox and five additional TV movie sequels. The film told of a human cop and his alien partner who is part of a race (the ‘Newcomers’) carried in a slave ship that crashed on Earth and is attempting to fit into human society.
Fox 21 will produce, and president Chris Topper described the show as ideal for the channel at the moment, as it is both a sci-fi tale and a procedural police drama that allows for many standalone stories. “[Sci Fi is] looking for more grounded sci-fi and close-ended episodes,” said Topper. “And at the heart of ‘Alien Nation,’ it’s a cop movie. It’s grounded. And it has a tremendous amount of dramatic possibilities and humor.” The trade says Minear will likely set the series in the Pacific Northwest twenty years after the original story told in the film. The Newcomers now number in the millions, and live in segregated ghettos.
“You can take (the original ‘Alien Nation’) a step forward and really do a show that encompasses the clash of civilizations, and the idea of a ghettoized minority,” said Minear. “You can touch on racism, terrorism, assimilation, immigration. And there’s room for satire.” Interesting that this comes up now as District 9, which tells a very similar story, begins to hit public consciousness. But it is a good idea. The original feature was great, thanks in part to leads James Caan and Mandy Patinkin, and while I have no doubt that Minear and whatever writing team is assembled can come up with all sorts of ways to use the ghettoized immigrant alien group to tell good stories, the success here will come down to casting. The previous Fox TV show couldn’t quite manage that trick, and if this series can pull a couple of great leads I’ll get interested really fast.