Alien Nation The Complete Series features the 22 episodes, including the rather awful and messy pilot episode, of the great science fiction cop TV show that was a spin-off of Alien Nation the movie with James Caan and Mandy Patinkin. This mixture of the cop drama and sci-fi comedy definitely works. Although neither Gary Graham, who plays Sykes, the human detective, and Eric Pierpoint, who plays his Slag or Tenctonese partner, have quite the magic or chemistry of Caan and Patinkin, the story lines are usually pretty good and a lot of the jokes still work in the TV version.
Not to do a PhD thesis here but the basic subtext of Alien Nation the TV series is racial integration and accepting differences. You could also have fun thinking about what the series was trying to say in terms of religion with the Overseers who ruled the Tenctonese and the Chosen who controlled them. Not that it really matters. Although the differences between humans and Tenctonese are at the center of many episodes, Alien Nation is also your basic cop show where the two detectives have a crime to solve or something. The shows originality as a comedic cop show is not the relationship between Sykes and his alien partner George Francisco but of the many running gags the aliens allow the writers to get away with. From the name of the various Tenctonese characters like Henry James, Buster Keaton, the weird food they eat like sloth and Grandma Balah’s Goose Entrails, to their having to learn a lot in their adaptation to life on earth which makes them take childrearing cues from Bonanza.
Some willing suspension of disbelief is definitely necessary with Alien Nation. Not because of the alien thing but because a few shows have plot holes that could suck in a black hole. For example, in Fifteen With Wanda, Sykes and George are supposed to be protecting a witness. At some point in time George feels guilty about leaving the hideout to go to his son’s school because it is against regulations. Sykes however comes and goes as he pleases and basically spends more time taking care of other stuff than guarding the witness.
In a weird moment of reality meets a TV show where the Tenctonese characters all have names of famous people, Barbara Bush (no, not Dubya’s mother) is of the regulars in the series.
Sci-fi fans will enjoy seeing Lori Petty, of Tank Girl fame, in the episode Fifteen With Wanda where she plays a girl Francisco’s son rescues from school bullies
Alien Nation The Complete Series unfortunately ends with a cliffhanger where George and his family are in intensive care after being poisoned with a toxin that has been killing newcomers and a plot is revealed to spray all of L.A. with the toxin to kill all the Tenctonese. Since the series was not renewed, who knows how this ends although there were a few made for TV movies made after that.
The special feature included here is just three miutes of behind the scenes and not particularly interesting.
Episode list:Alien Nation: The TV Movie (Pilot)