Based on the film Alien Nation (1988)
Created by Kenneth Johnson
Number of Episodes: 22 (1 Season), plus five TV movies
Detective Matt Sykes… Gary Graham
Detective George Francisco… Eric Pierpoint
Susan Francisco… Michele Scarabelli
Emily Francisco… Lauren Woodland
Buck Francisco… Sean Six
Cathy Frankel… Terri Treas
Genre: Science Fiction, Aliens. (Obvs.)
PROTESTOR 1: They’re unnatural. They’re already taking too many jobs, our jobs! If we let her in here now, there’ll be a hundred more next week.
PROTESTOR 2: We don’t want them mixing with our kids. Their quarantine wasn’t long enough. The ACLU got them released too soon. How do we know they’re really safe?
PROTESTOR 1: I say we run them back to Slagtown!
SYKES: Why stop with running them back to Slagtown, why don’t we just kill them? Teach them a lesson. Keep them in their place. Keep America pure.
SYKES: We don’t even need to paint little stars on them to recognize them, do we?
— “Alien Nation” (S01E01)
Aliens assimilate into late-80s California, posing a threat to both bigoted locals and their own absent overlords. One such is George Francisco, a police detective, who is teamed up with the erratic Matt Sykes to fight crime, all while proving that there really is such a thing as a truly superior alien being: smarter, stronger, faster, better, but also with the human ability to feel and invent and grow. Full of clever allegory and interesting cultural diversity, the series is perhaps even more topical now than while on the air, serving up drama, comedy and action alongside the Many Evils of Racism. Featuring likable characters, shady conspiracies and cool ideas about what it truly means to be human, Alien Nation leaves a lasting impression, perhaps none more so than that of Gary Graham’s enormous mullet.
Why It’s Must-See: In a sci-fi field bursting with “Yay, Us!” it is refreshing to see a series so fondly focused on Them.
UST Factor: Fairly low, but there is a sweet bi-species romance that raises some eyebrows.
Cancellation: Alien Nation was a victim of cost-cutting measures at the then-fledgling Fox, and was cancelled at the end of its first season – on a cliff-hanger – along with the remainder of the network’s original programming.
And Then What? Fans would not let the show go, and it finally received five television movies, airing between 1994 and 1997, to wrap up the story.
Fan Collective Noun: Simply Alien Nation fans.
Fandom Hall of Fame: Viewers for Quality Television, a now-defunct 5000-strong membership, campaigned strongly for the show’s return.
On the Page: Malibu Comics produced more than twenty issues based on the series, as well as a bizarre four-issue crossover with, of all things, Planet of the Apes. (Ape Nation!) Pocket Books also released eight well-received tie-in novels, many written by leading lights of the field.
Notable Merchandise: In a disappointing oversight, a trading card set from FTCC referred to the alien Tenctonese as the Tanctonese, a slight not easily forgiven by fans.
Did You Know? The Tenctonese language is mostly composed of English words spoken backwards. Also, Alien Nation = Alienation. Get it?