Body And Soul
The Enemy Within
Matt Sikes -
George Francisco -
Susan Francisco -
Emily Francisco -
Buck Francisco -
Cathy Frankel -
OTHER ALIENS AMONGST US SHOWS
Based on the film starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin, ALIEN NATION takes place five years after a slave ship full of thousands of Tenctonese beings landed in the dester outside LA. The newcomers are faster, stronger and cleverer than most humans and so their acceptance into human society is a troubled matter. They are beset by purists who would have them enslaved or killed once more and the machinations of those of their own kind who served on the ship as overseers.
Having aliens amongst us provides a chance to hold up a mirror to human society and look at the problems that beset our society. The obvious one is racism, but there are also episodes dealing with religious differences, class distinctions and sexual exploitation.
Gary Graham takes the James Caan role as Detective Matt Sikes, a personable enough character, and one that goes through some changes and progressions as the series develops, mainly through his relationship with Tenctonese neighbour Cathy. Eric Pierpoint is his partner, George Francisco, and it is through him and his family that we find our insight into Tenctonese ways. Unfortunately, he also spends a good part of the time as a figure of fun in the way that he doesn't understand human ways and making him into a prospective mother later in the series further undermines his character.
Depth and subtlety are not the cornerstone of this series, quite often resorting to simple caricatures and cyphers, especially in the supporting characters. The plotlines are also often quite thin and straightforward, alhtough a few episodes do rise above the mediocre to shine.
The show was followed by four TV movies which allowed the cliffhanger to be resolved and the Tenctonese mythology and background to be explored furhter.Top
PILOT - Part One
A spaceship full of alien beings lands on earth and the slave occupants are offered sanctuary by the american government. As they set about making new lives for themselves, they find themselves being the target of racism. Matt Sikes is a borderline racist cop whose partner is killed and who then gets teamed up with the first of the Newcomers to make it to detective, George Francisco. Their first case together is the death of a vagrant, but there are all kinds of undercurrents with the body mysteriously disappearing. All the while, human and Newcomer are struggling to come to terms with the task of working together.
Yes, it's a clumsy metaphor for the discrimination and racism that continues to wrack american society, but ALIEN NATION the TV show has a lot going for it. The set up is a powerful one with plenty of scope for delving into the mysterious ways of the alien race whilst using their presence as a distorting mirror held up to our own faces. In this opening episode, Sikes confronts an angry mob of 'purists' and breaks them not with pretty words or persuasive argument, but by putting a gun to the head of a Newcomer child and challenging them to come and pull the trigger. It's a bold piece of writing and gives this opening episode some bite.
Aside from that, it's more of a cop show than a science fiction show as the two cops chase the clues. There's also time to put in some stuff about disaffected youth with George's teenage son.
This is all helped by a brace of charming performances from Gary Graham as Sikes and Eric Pierpoint as George. They give it a strong centre. It will be interesting to see how challenging this show decides to be.Top
PILOT - Part Two
The partnership between George and Matt is still an uneasy one and it is made all the more uneasy as the investigation continues and it becomes clear that the Newcomers transform into terrible insect-like monsters. This is, of course, a plot by purists to discredit them.
After the opening half of the tale, this is a bit disappointing. The plot is cookie-cutter complicated and the villains too cartoon to have any real threat to them, diluting the message about the lengths that people will go to in order to destroy that which they fear.Top
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
An investigation into Tenctonese deaths leads to a medical facility run by a school friend of Matt's. The doctor has done incredibly well for himself, but there are questions over the methods that he has been using. Tenctonese patients are dying whilst human patients are looking younger.
The plot is sub-MIAMI VICE and the trappings of the science fiction setting barely intrude on that. The only real interest lies in the still uneasy relationship between Matt and George. The sly, seeming unimportance of remarks and jokey references that together add up to racism and the final confrontation between George and his partner make the episode worthwhile. The subplot of George's wife facing age discrimination hammer-blow subtle, however.Top
LITTLE LOST LAMB
George persuades Matt to take in a young Tenctonese street prostitute whilst they decide what to do with her. She is a newcomer so traumatised from her life on the ship that she will do anything that anyone tells her to. When she is killed in his apartment, Sikes swears vengeance and the pair set about tracking down the prostitute ringleaders responsible. Meanwhile the investigation into the killing of a human by a newcomer finds the person responsible is George's son.
The idea of interspecies sex was bound to come up sooner or later and it turned out to be sooner. There was no doubt that there would be a market for yound Tenctonese women and that says something about the human male. The rest of the investigation is strictly seen-it-all-before stuff, although there is some nice interplay between Matt and George regarding the subject of sex. The string about Buck's grandfather coming to the family to heal the youngster's wounds is, quite frankly, a bunch of nonsense.Top
15 WITH WANDA
Sikes and George are locked up in a sleazy hotel room with a witness to a gangland killing. They're getting on each others' nerves, not least because the witness is a Tenctonese newlywed under the influence of an aphrodisiac he and his wife have taken that makes him permanently horny until he gets his '15 with Wanda'. They both have to keep slipping out because of family problems, but the mobster's hitman is closing in.
When we like a character we care about them and want to follow them. We don't care enough about either George of Sikes for them to be putting us through this. Witness protection duty might be hell, boring and annoying, but that doesn't mean it has to be that way for the viewer as well. Their trivial home problems are not sufficiently interesting enough for us to have to share. It's hard being a parent, we get that and we don't need this trite nonsense to remind us of it.Top
There's a full-blown riot going on downtown and a gang of killers use it as a cover to get inside the precinct house to steal millions of dollars worth of evidence from the evidence locker. George is the only person there who isn't dead and gets to play DIE HARD until a Tenctonese woman discovers a tank of gas that changes her plans drastically.
If you want action then this is the episode that gives it to you. In fact, there's so much action, and plot, that the whole thing gets a little bit unfocussed. One minute it's a siege story, the next it's Sikes getting cut up and then we're into alien mind control and wives shooting at husbands. Not classic, but entertaining.Top
THE FIRST CIGAR
George has got money problems, so when a successful Tenctonese businesswoman offers him a loan, he jumps at the chance. When she turns out to be the biggest drug dealer in Slagtown, he realises his mistake.
OK, taking any sort of bribe is bad and will get you into trouble. That's the moral of the story and it's hammered home but good. Even the substory of Buck landing a job as a telesales whizz is there just to say that you can't get rich quick, just by hard work. The Tenctonese villainess, however, is a lot of fun and completely without morals. When cornered, she takes out the entire drug-dealing network of the neighbourhood oh so coolly. Still, crime doesn't pay and she gets her comeuppance, more's the pity.Top
NIGHT OF SCREAMS
It's Halloween and George and his family are having to cope with human traditions that are a bit more wierd even than usual. Worse, the ancient god of pain (or something) Tagdot is back and killing Tenctonese victims, chopping off their hands in ritualistic fashion.
Halloween's a pretty odd celebration and the most is made of the Tenctonese reaction to that. Unfortunately, the rest of the plot is pretty straightforward and even dull. The reactions of the major players to the true identity of the killer and his victims are pretty predictable and it all adds up to a mediocre episode.Top
An astonomer is slaughtered on the eve of announcing a great discovery. An alien probe has been detected and is on the same heading as the Tenctonese ship when it landed. Someone is trying to get a message to the ship, a message that spells a return to slavery for the newcomers and the same for all humanity.
Now there's an idea. The newcomers are free of slavery, but they are in hiding from their ex-masters. Would the human race be willing to stand with them and fight? Unfortunately, the thought is better than the episode, not least because it is further undermined by Sikes' memories of his recently dead uncle.Top
THREE TO TANGO
Newcomers are turning up dead, but not just any common or garden newcomers. Binnaums are critical to the reproductive cycle of the Tenctonese people. Without them there can be no children. Is this the work of the purists? or is there some other force at work.
"Let's talk about sex, baby". Actually, this episode is as much about religion and the power that it holds over people as it is about sex. Although the reproductive cycle of the Tenctonese is discussed in detail, it is the order to which the Binnaums belong and its parallels with the Catholic church that gets the most attention.
One of the weaknesses of ALIEN NATION is the way that one of the major characters has to have some sort of personal connnection to the subject of the week. This week, Sikes reveals his previously hidden religious side, which will probably never surface again. It's artificial and it detracts from the rest of what goes on.Top
Before the crash of their spaceship, the Overseers made some of their cargo play a vicious game of russian roulette involving streams of salt water. New bodies showing up on the street suggest that the game is being played again, on Earth.
This is a powerful episode in which being's inhumanity to being is examined through the eyes of one that has been taken so far to the very edge that they can never truly come back again. The plot is simple enough, but it is the scars that the game has left with George that gives it its strength and the final showdown with the Overseer is probably the strongest moment of the show to date.Top
CHAINS OF LOVE
Newcomer males who date a specific woman through a dating agency are ending up dead on the street. Central to this is a Tenctonese drug that causes the two partners to bond together in every way for life. When a Tenctonese male bonds with Sikes in error, the investigation is complicated.
There's a lot of fun to be had at Sikes's discomfort with the Tenctonese male chasing him around trying to date him, but otherwise this episode has little to say, except that beauty comes from within and drugs are no way to solve a problem.Top
THE RED ROOM
The Department's having psychological evaluations, which makes both Sikes and George nervous. The case they're working on is full of faces that George recognises, but doesn't remember and it's all to do with a red room. The US government is also taking way too much of an interest in it as well.
The newcomers are faster, stronger, smarter and more resilient than humans, so what should we do with them? Make them into super-assassins of course. In The Game, George was forced to play russian roulette and now he's been brainwashed by the humans. It's a bit of a stretch to believe that everything has been happening to this single individual. That aside, it's an interesting episode with some insights into the minds of the characters.Top
THE SPIRIT OF '95
The campaign for Newcomers to get the vote is gathering ground and bothy George's wife and son want him to speak out for the cause. When the campaign headquarters gets bombed, however, he is thrust into an investigation that includes all manner of political manoeuvring and dirty tricks.
Even with the human (or alien) rights overtones, this episode is a dull, lacklustre police procedural that really adds nothing to the series. It tries to be so even handed that it even manages to make both sides of the divide equally at fault.Top
GENERATION TO GENERATION
Everyone's looking for the box, the box that George's uncle announces will kill anyone who doesn't know how to use it. He ends up dead, as do the people who try to use the box.
This is not a convincing story on almost any level. Firstly, the search for the box is the centre, but then when you get it all it turns out to be is a holographic projection of the Tenctonese homeworld. Nostalgic yes, but worth killing over? Also who would build a box that has pretty pictures of home in it and then make it deadly to those who can't work it?
The death of the family member is supposed to be moving and affecting, but since we didn't really ever get to know him at all the family's grieving isn't really passed on to the audience.Top
George is being featured on the local news and so is being followed around by a film crew and being feted by, amongst others, the mayor. The case he is supposed to be working on with Sikes involves Newcomer females in a new videophone sex line industry being put in danger.
Porn's a tricky thing. Who has the right to it and who needs to be protected? This is actually a reasonably balanced look at the subject that is against, but doesn't bang the drum too loudly, choosing instead to ask where the line is drawn between what's OK and what's beyond the pale. It asks the questions, but isn't about to give answers.
This feeds into Matt's curiosity about Tenctonese females, not least his neighbour and raises some interesting points about how we would react in this situation.
Sadly, the point made about the media through the clumsy and hardly subtle tool of the news crew is crass and insulting in its obviousness, even if it Angela Bassett doing the interviewing.Top
When Sikes's old mentor shows up and involves the team in a drugs bust, George finds himself on the end of an investigation that turns up a missing stash of those drugs in his house just at the time when he ought to be accepting the pod from Susan.
George framed for drugs just as a character appears working on an interdepartmental drugs squad only a month or so from retirement. If you can't work out the rest yourself then you ought to be ashamed, as ought the writers of this, quite frankly, offensively condescending rubbish.
Even the second string story of the approaching exchange of the pod raises barely a humourous smile. ALIEN NATION is getting increasingly tiresome.Top
Whilst investigating violence as a result of the abuse of steroids derived from Newcomer blood in the body-building community, Sikes and George differ on what constitutes a real man. One of Sikes's friends makes a move on his newcomer neighbour and not quite girlfriend.
This is the episode in which George gives birth and that sequence is actually pretty effective with some excellent prosthetic and animatronic work. The baby itself is animatronic and is pretty impressive as well. Sadly, the rest of the show can't live up to that with an interesting, but lightweight, central investigation and some comedy built around George's hormones and mood swings that is probably as offensive to women as it is to science fiction fans.Top
CROSSING THE LINE
Instead of going to Hawaii, Matt freaks out over a new case, working all hours and determined to catch the serial killer who has dubbed himself 'Doctor Death'. It takes George a long time to twig on that this relates to an old case of his partner's and that his human friend is willing to cross the line on this one, but then he has got a new baby to deal with.
In a shock move, ALIEN NATION comes up with an episode that actually shows some depth in its treatment of its characters. Admittedly, the plot has been seen so many times that it's beyond cliche, but it does at least say something about Sikes in an adult fashion adn doesn't treat its audience with contempt.Top
A mixture of childhood memories centred around baseball and a case involving death rituals of the newcomers has a strange effect on Matt, so when he is killed he takes his resuscitation to be a sign that some of the newcomers have the power to bring humans back to life and the newcomer in question is one who has been carrying out a string of petty theft.
Another episode of ALIEN NATION that shows more depth than the average puddle. If this goes on, the show might actually start to show some promise. The scene in which Matt dies is surprising and moving and adds a bite to the story that has often been missing. The story behind his father is a bit too much, but the rest of the episode verges on the excellent.Top
George invests in a company using Tenctonese technology to create advanced products. When Buck accuses him of aiding a sweatshop, he gets angry, but when the owner ends up dead and there is evidence of illegal dumping of toxic waste, it seems that his son might have been right all along.
Corporate greed is bad. In fact, all greed is, Gordon Gecko notwithstanding, bad. That's the moral of the story and one of the things that is worst about ALIEN NATION is the way it pontificates over its moral messages. To say that it rams them home with a sledgehammer is akin to saying that a hurricane has heightened wind patterns. The sub-story with Matt getting his dream car and finding it to be a nightmare is much more fun, but no more subtle.Top
A child that Cathy tended on the slave ship turns up in a nearly vegetative state. She doesn't accept the story of the mother about an injury sustained in the crash and kidnaps the boy to save him. The overseers locate them both and determine to take away the boy's last hint of love by having him kill Cathy.
It's interesting that the better episodes of ALIEN NATION are all the ones that deal with the darker sides of the Tenctonese past. This one is about the children and how they were manufactured into the evil overseers on the ship. They were, and are, merciless and so the stakes are heightened and there is a real possibility that something unthinkable could happen. It doesn't, of course, but that makes this one of the better episodes.Top
The deaths of two prominent Newcomers leads to the conclusion that someone has engineered a biological weapon that can be used against the Tenctonese. The investigation into this isn't helped by the fact that George has been promoted above Sikes who finds it hard to deal with and who is having problems dealing with Cathy's alien nature.
It's the last episode of the series and that means a set up to a story that could conclude in the second season that never came. As a result it's an anticlimax and unsatisfying, although the cliffhangers with the Franciscos in intensive care and a plot to kill all the newcomers in California only hours away.Top
George's wife and daughter are in comas, dying from a dose of the virus that the human purity movement is planning to spray over all LA. At the same time, a Tenctonese overseer has been sent by the main fleet to locate the missing slaves and has decided that humanity will make good domestic slaves.
Not many shows get the chance to wind up cliffhanger stories once they have been cancelled, so it is good to see this TV Movie wrapping up the two main hanging stories. It is, however, two episodes that have been stitched together to create the overall storyline.
Firstly, there is the story of the investigation into the human purity movement and the need to stop their plot to wipe out all newcomers whilst George worries about his dying family and this is very much familiar from the series as a police procedural that could easily just have the alien element removed to be non-genre at all.
Then there is the story of the alien overseer sent to determine that the slaves are still alive and can be reclaimed by their owners. Since he discovers this in his first few minutes on Earth, the rest of his story is redundant. One message and the aliens would come and reclaim everything. Instead, he wanders around, helping in the fight against the virus and wooing Cathy, Sike's would-be love interest. Then, when the plot requires it, he reverts to type and calls for backup.
There is a significant ramping up of the special effects quotient for this movie with shots of alien ships in space, the inside of a fully functioning Tenctonese ship and an alien shuttle all proving to be quite well rendered, though some of the matte work is a bit clunky.
The faults, though, don't hinder the entertainment value and we should applaud the fact that the show got to wrap up its plots.Top
BODY AND SOUL
A slow-witted giant breaks out of a secret research facility, taking a sick girl with him. The police discover the girl in the city and she seems to have aspects of both Tenctonese and Human physiology. The investigation leads to a conspiracy that goes right to the heart of government in Washington.
This second TV movie for the cancelled ALIEN NATION show is all about sex and consequences. The minor story of Matt struggling with the need to learn about sex with his Tenctonese girlfriend Cathy is the least interesting and is played for laughs, but it is the bigger issues that the potential human/Tencton hybrid raises are the more interesting.
Interspecies love is one thing, but the mingling of two species would lead to the creation of a third one and both sides fear what that might mean. The human purists are already scared enough without the thought that the newcomers might pollute the human gene pool, but for the newcomers the mingling of the species might lead to the eventual end of their own.
These are, though, in the background since the show was driven more by its plots than by the issues that they raised and this plot veers off into a huge conspiracy that seems willing to kill people all over the place, but unwilling to just take out Sikes and George. This then leads to a completely unbelievable break in to the supposedly high security research establishment.
Still, at least the thoughts are there to be considered for a while before the movie fades from the memory.Top
It’s the eve of the new Millennium and everyone, it seems, is going crazy. A hostage taker starts an investigation into humans and newcomers being conned by a group of Tenctonese chancers with a virtual reality machine they promise will bring enlightenment, but which also brings death.
This is a direct sequel to the series episode Generation To Generation, featuring the religious artefact that can create vistas of new worlds full of wonders, but also full of any dangers that the visitors inside take with them.
There is almost no impetus to the investigation story which goes wandering off to address generational issues such as Buck going against his parents’ values and Emily embracing Earth values so much that she’s not above a bit of shoplifting. There’s also a perfunctory first love turning to near rape story that goes absolutely nowhere.
The otherworldly vistas are fine, even though they are obviously early CGI creations, but the horrific giant scorpion monster that inhabits them is just plain terrible despite the director’s attempts to hide it as much as possible behind foliage.Top
THE ENEMY WITHIN
A newcomer dies in the street and none of her own kind will come to help. She is an Eeno, one of the lowest of the slaves, forced to deal with the waste products of the ship and to live off whatever waste they found, even if it was the bodies of the dead. George's prejudice threatens the investigation into a dodgy waste disposal company and a hybrid alien that might destroy humans and newcomers.
Even the oppressed can be racist and the scapegoating of the Eenos is clearly the moral point of the story, but it isn't enough to carry the running time and so the ridiculous tale of the hybrid creature and its offspring (borrowing heavily from ALIEN and ALIENS) takes over somewhere in the middle and things all get a bit silly.
Matters aren't helped by the personal traumas that both Matt and George are going through as Cathy can't cope with living with Matt and George is asked to inseminate another female, much to his wife's discontent.
And then there's the small matter of the hybrid babies. They didn't ask to be born, or created, the way they were, but they are dissected and thrown around and then finally acid-burned in saltwater just because they look like monsters.
This is the last of the TV movies and it's hard not to think that they maybe should have stopped at Dark Horizon.Top
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