Eric Pierpoint, Gary Graham. Though the sci-fi series was cancelled after just one season, the Alien Nation saga continued with a number of TV movies that picked up where it left off in Alien Nation: Dark Horizon (1994/90 min.), Alien Nation: Body and Soul (1995/87 min.), Alien Nation: Millennium (1996/120 min.), Alien Nation: The Enemy Within (1996/120 min.) and Alien Nation: The Udara Legacy (1996/120 min.). 3 DVDs. Color/NR/fullscreen.
It lasted just one season (1989-90) as a television series, but Alien Nation lives on in the five full-length films released here under the Ultimate Movie Collection banner. Produced between 1994 and 97, the five made-for-TV movies, all directed by Kenneth Johnson, take up where the series (and the 1988 theatrical feature) left off. A brief preamble provides the backstory: Following the crash of an alien slave ship near Los Angeles, the survivors, a race known as the Tenctonese, have endured a lengthy quarantine and are now assimilating into human society. While these "Newcomers," as theyre known, are essentially humanoid in appearance and behavior, they also have two hearts, remarkable strength, and other characteristics that distinguish them from Earthlings; and like any minority, they suffer the slings and arrows of racism and discrimination, principally at the hands of "purists" whod like nothing better than to send the alien "slags" back to wherever they came from. Take away the sci-fi trappings, and what were left with is a fairly standard police procedural in which human Detective Matt Sikes and his Newcomer partner, George Francisco (with Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint respectively filling the roles played by James Caan and Mandy Patinkin in the original feature), battle a Tenctonese "overseer" intent on returning his race to slave status ("Dark Horizon"), attempt to sort out the identities of two creatures who appear to be half-human and half-alien ("Body and Soul"), investigate Georges sons involvement in a criminal cult ("Millennium"), and so on. What distinguishes Alien Nation is its exploration of the various manifestations of human-alien interactions. This is often played for laughs; the Newcomers are given names like "Kenny Bunkport," ""Douglas Fir," and "Carrie Onbag," they dine on such delicacies as "bladder and ligaments," and they have certain sexual proclivities that are decidedly different from ours (Sikes romantic involvement with a fetching Newcomer is fodder for misunderstandings that are often amusing and occasionally quite touching). Director Johnson and his cohorts also seem intent on making a Big Statement about race relations, and although the results are sometimes a bit clunky, the set makes for consistently compelling viewing. Extensive bonus features include audio commentary, "making of" featurettes, gag reels, and more. --Sam Graham