Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Return of the Tenctonese
July 8, 2009 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Alien Nation is being revived for the SyFy channel by Tim Minear, whose previous credits include Firefly and Angel.

Alien Nation was a rare sort of science fiction television series—one that actually enjoyed a modicum of mainstream success. Based on a television movie by Rockne O’Bannon (who apparently really likes bald aliens), it blended elements of both police dramas and science fiction. It also included a nice dose of buddy comedy and racial allegory, and featured one of the most complex alien species (with some of the most elaborately detailed alien reproductive practices) ever featured on television. But, like other science fiction series with the misfortune to air on FOX, it was killed before its time, after only twenty two episodes. Thanks to the efforts of fans and show-runner Kenneth Johnson, it lived on in comic books, licensed novels, and, most recently, a series of made-for-TV movies.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi (73 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, nice and all, but jeez -- new stuff would be better, maybe.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:14 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe now I can get people to come to my sour milk and rats brunches. . .
posted by Danf at 9:14 AM on July 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, nice and all, but jeez -- new stuff would be better, maybe.

Well, let me know if you find any. I was hoping to be able to link to the actual TV movies on hulu, as they were up there a few months ago, but apparently they've been taken down.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:16 AM on July 8, 2009


I loved that show. And DVDs of it just appeared at the local public library. SCORE!
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 AM on July 8, 2009


The original movie was released theatrically. Although it was 21 years ago, so I am sure most people saw it once it was broadcast on TV.
posted by Badgermann at 9:24 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


PhoBWanKenobi - I think "new" meant new, as in, a totally original creation and not a revival of a short lived previously plotted series.
posted by contessa at 9:24 AM on July 8, 2009


What contessa said.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2009


They've made vague noises about wanting to do some kind of Firefly style space opera - I don't entirely buy it.
posted by Artw at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2009


*drinks sour milk in celebration*
posted by Greg Nog at 9:28 AM on July 8, 2009


Whoops, gotcha.

I was unfairly anticipating snark for my first FPP.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:28 AM on July 8, 2009


Syfy Seeks The Next Big Space Opera, To Replace BSG And Farscape
posted by Artw at 9:28 AM on July 8, 2009


"Na soos
Ga nil pa

Na soos
Na soos kani

Ga nil pa
Ga nil pa

Ga nil pa
Ga nil pa"

Why the theme song is on my iPod, I have no idea. It must be an eMusic download.
posted by bugmuncher at 9:29 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It also included a nice dose of buddy comedy and racial allegory , and featured one of the most complex alien species (with some of the most elaborately detailed alien reproductive practices) ever featured on television.

I liked the original film, it was an effective twist on the buddy cop formula that was popular in the 80s (before the genre crashed and burned in the early 90s in the form of garbage like Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot and Cop And A Half). I haven't seen much of the TV series or other sequels though, because they seemed to heavy-handed on the racial allegory side, but maybe I'll give them a shot now and see if I was missing anything.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:31 AM on July 8, 2009


I have the film at home and remember the series. The film was one of those things I picked up and then never wanted to watch. Then I did and realized that it was better than I remembered.

A lot of that was performance driven, though, so a revival is still a crap shoot.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:32 AM on July 8, 2009


"And still it fits?"
posted by cjorgensen at 9:32 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is the perfect candidate for remaking--the original series was a brilliant and tasteful idea hampered by cheesy acting (I still want to punch Sikes in his pigface), low production values and 80s buddy-cop trope parodies that seemed hopelessly dated even then.

In other words: oMgOmGoMgOmGoMg
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:33 AM on July 8, 2009


Oh the racial "allegory" most certainly was heavy-handed.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:33 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


For the combination of Alien Nation (a show I loved) and Time Minear (who is associated with several things I love) I'll accept a reheat of a good idea over something new.
posted by abulafa at 9:34 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll check this out, but put me down for the camp that would appreciate completely new things once in a while as well.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:36 AM on July 8, 2009


Considering Sci-Fi's recent rebranding, shouldn't this be called Aleyun Nayshun?

Will it replace wrestling on their schedule?
posted by davelog at 9:36 AM on July 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


As an aside, can we stop with this "SyFy" silliness? It's SciFi, and the more we stick to our guns, the sooner they'll cave to pressure. Don't believe it? Take a look at the Boston Garden, which was dubbed the "FleetCenter" by some corporate boobs. No one took that name seriously except the owners, and behold, it's back to being the Garden again.
posted by explosion at 9:37 AM on July 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


hampered by cheesy acting (I still want to punch Sikes in his pigface)

Sikes was immensely annoying, but still believable.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:38 AM on July 8, 2009


Between this and the V remake, it's the age of recreating shows created by Kenneth Johnson.

Let's pray this turns out better than The Bionic Woman.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:40 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Artw: "Syfy Seeks The Next Big Space Opera, To Replace BSG And Farscape"

really? 'cause they canceled BOTH of those. are they sure they wouldn't rather just make more shark and aligator monster b movies? maybe that headline should instead read "Swine seeks new pearl, to replace previous unwanted pearl."
posted by shmegegge at 9:44 AM on July 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


MCMikeNamara: "Between this and the V remake, "

wh... what? oh my... I... I love V.
posted by shmegegge at 9:45 AM on July 8, 2009


shmegegge - I'm predicting all wrestling, all the time, by 2011.

(I kid - they'll have breaks for Ghost Hunters)
posted by Artw at 9:49 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know they are just reselling us our childhood, but dude, V and Alien Nation and ...

Fuck you, Michael Bay and whoever is going to ruin G. I. Joe
posted by khaibit at 9:51 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


They'll do a horrible remake of Dr. Who next.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on July 8, 2009


I haven't seen much of the TV series or other sequels though, because they seemed to heavy-handed on the racial allegory side, but maybe I'll give them a shot now and see if I was missing anything.

The racial allegory starts out fairly heavy handed, but becomes sort of more of a backdrop mid-way through the series, largely in favor of deeper character development and development of the alien species.

Usually I'm totally down on remakes, but there was a lot of unresolved or hinted-at stuff later in the series, like the return of the overseers and the nature of whoever was enslaving the Tenctonese, which was never really resolved. Minear says he's relying more on the original movie for the source material (which, I think, might be a dumb move considering the much larger fan base for the show, but whatev.; ignoring large chunks of a franchise worked for JJ Abrams) so we'll see if any of that is explored or if this is just going to end up seeming like a small screen version of the upcoming district 9.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm optimistic about at least one of SciFi's new offerings: Warehouse 13 is fantastic. A little bit X-Files, a little bit Indiana Jones derivative, sure. But what a heady concoction!

Anybody know if Warehouse 13 has any ties to Bureau 13, a RPG and set of novels by Nick Pollotta? Seems to have a similar sense of whimsy, but I can't find any direct documentation of links between the two.
posted by SaharaRose at 9:57 AM on July 8, 2009


Warehouse 13 reminds me of the British series with the anomalies, SaharaRose, Primeval. Decent concept, though the acting needs work, and why they don't come prepared with big guns every time makes no sense to me. Half the time they walk in completely unprepared, and it's only sheer luck and wild coincidence that keeps them from being killed like the victims they are coming to protect--that plot device gets old after a while.

I loved the Alien Nation movie, mostly due to Mandy Patinkin, so casting is key here, but I'm definitely up for a remake.

Now will someone please make a new Logan's Run? If we're going to be stuck with remakes, I'd like to see that one done with a big budget and some cool effects behind it, at least.
posted by misha at 10:03 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The original short that District 9 came out of was superb - I'm wondering if that can be sustained at feature length.
posted by Artw at 10:04 AM on July 8, 2009


SyFy/Sci-Fi is seeking the next big cheap to produce space opera. They killed The Invisible Man and Farscape over budgetary concerns. What can we crank out with a minimum of CGI (just look at some of their movies, which typically feature CGI at least a decade behind the times, with copious amounts of suck), not much latex or other creature effects, and nothing in the way of expensive sets?

What the channel is looking for is something that kinda sounds like space opera, but misses almost every defining visual characteristic of it. They are definitely Lost In Space on this one and will never reach that goal, because nobody's going to buy it. Firefly almost made it, but they still had sets and costuming to deal with.

The other danger is the canon of the original Alien Nation. The Tenctonese ("Newcomers") were ridiculously overpowered: stronger and smarter than humans, with a greater lifespan and incredible durability, including an extra heart. The show never really quite got around to addressing the fact that they can outcompete poor homo saps in just about every area except surfing, chocolatiering, and on-site marine biology. The human race would be doomed with them on the same planet.

Maybe Minear can walk the tightrope between these problems, but I think it's more or less doomed like any other venture that wasn't Stargate: SG-1.
posted by adipocere at 10:13 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The new Alien Nation might be a remake (or continuation), but Tim Minear is a talented guy, and from the interview in the third link it sounds like he's got a really interesting take on the basic concept, so I feel good about this series. If it shows up in Canada I'd definitely watch it. If it works out like Minear describes it, the show will address some very uncomfortable and messy issues - just the sort of things science fiction should be examining.

"Syfy Seeks The Next Big Space Opera, To Replace BSG And Farscape"

Yesyesyesyesyesyesyes please! That's what I'd most like to see. From '87 until just recently we used to have at least one space show on the air all the time. Now there's nothing, and I really miss that genre.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2009


Man do I not understand people who like Stargate.
posted by Artw at 10:18 AM on July 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


The human race would be doomed with them on the same planet.

Except for the fact that they have a pretty impractical form of reproduction that requires three mates for fertilization and two for carrying an infant to term. One of the unresolved implications of the series was that the Tenctonese were likely to evolve to be able to reproduce with humans (this was even more heavily implied in the novels), which would spell doom for both aliens and humans alike, in a way.

But somehow I doubt that "SyFy" is going to get all Lilith's Brood on us.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:19 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anybody know if Warehouse 13 has any ties to Bureau 13

I thought it was a thinly veiled ripoff of Steve Jackson Games' Warehouse 23 (also the name of their outlet store).

posted by RogerB at 10:21 AM on July 8, 2009


I suspect a random collision of generic parts.
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on July 8, 2009


I'm optimistic about at least one of SciFi's new offerings: Warehouse 13 is fantastic.

Well, based on a single showing, I'm not ready to say it's fantastic. It certainly has potential. But, it also has all the trappings of becoming a very predictable show. I'm definitely going to give it a chance, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:27 AM on July 8, 2009


"The other danger is the canon of the original Alien Nation. The Tenctonese ("Newcomers") were ridiculously overpowered: stronger and smarter than humans, with a greater lifespan and incredible durability, including an extra heart. The show never really quite got around to addressing the fact that they can outcompete poor homo saps in just about every area except surfing, chocolatiering, and on-site marine biology. The human race would be doomed with them on the same planet."

Yeah, that's a good point. One thing I disliked about the original show was the way that the aliens were so endlessly protean. The Tenctonese were one of the most complicated alien species ever depicted, with endless new traits showing up whenever the plot needed them. If Minear is going more by the movie than the series, then maybe his aliens will have a simpler and more plausible design.

They could still be tougher than humans, though. It sounds like the premise of the new series is at least partially about what it's like to live in a world where the new arrivals are obviously out-competing the locals. What happens when the aliens are tougher and smarter and breed way more quickly than us? Are they even still aliens if most of them were born on Earth?
posted by Kevin Street at 10:28 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


They killed The Invisible Man and Farscape over budgetary concerns.

First Wave too, as well as a couple of others if my memory serves.

Beyond it just being a really solid, well done science fiction film, I loved the movie Alien Nation for a really strange reason; it introduced me to the .454 Casull pistol. I had no idea such a creature existed, and I didn't believe it when I saw the movie (thinking it was a stupidly big bullet invented for the film, similar to the .88 magnum from Johnny Dangerously)

Later I did some reading and thought to myself, "Holy crap! That fucker is real!"

I love it because it proved to me that every once in a while, something absurd turns out to be too awesome to be fake.

Tim Minear earned my attention with Farscape, and Alien Nation is a cool universe, I'll watch a new version of it.
posted by quin at 10:30 AM on July 8, 2009


The series was 1st on back when I was working much more heavily in film & video production.

It turned out that both myself and one of the main on-line editors I worked with liked the show, which was interesting because he was more of a fly fishin', beer drinking, boatnik sort of a guy.

The same thing caught both of us.

Really, the narrative engine that drives the show is Syke's animosity towards the newcomers. He was obviously a bigot, and racist, and him having to deal with the aliens tweaked him 9 ways from Sunday, but every time he was ready to dismiss them out of hand, something wolud happen on the show that would force him to rethink his opinions.

It was a sci fi version of the Southern Sheriff learning to deal with, then respect, that which he had always been able to dismiss.

Alien Nation was an interesting, if oftentimes heavy handed, way to discuss racism ... sort of like that Trek episode with Loki & Beal.
posted by Relay at 10:37 AM on July 8, 2009


Squee! I loved Alien Nation! I look forward to seeing how they'll fuck this up!

TV show pitch: I and a talented crew travel to wherever Ghost Hunters is filming and proceed to scare the everloving shit out of them. I would totally watch that.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:40 AM on July 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


They'll do a horrible remake of Dr. Who next.

How would one tell the difference?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:40 AM on July 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


It sounds like the premise of the new series is at least partially about what it's like to live in a world where the new arrivals are obviously out-competing the locals.

If they don't keep this aspect, frankly, I'm not interested.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:41 AM on July 8, 2009


Potomac Avenue: ...the original series was a brilliant and tasteful idea hampered by cheesy acting (I still want to punch Sikes in his pigface), low production values and 80s buddy-cop trope parodies that seemed hopelessly dated even then.

Funny, those are all the things I loved about it. But then again, I'm not a science fiction fan in general - as I've previously mentioned, I think Alien Nation is a lot like 60's Batman in those ways - another campy, pun and morality-play prone favorite of mine.

Also, here's the Tenctonese alphabet and a downloadable font. You're welcome.

On preview, Relay, you've nailed an essential part of its appeal to me too.
posted by jocelmeow at 10:46 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


One more thing - Pho B, obviously I loved this show, but as for its "modicum of mainstream success," it was something of a fan and critical darling, and a Fox executive later characterized its cancellation as "the biggest mistake we've ever made," but its now-longstanding popularity certainly wasn't reflected by the show's Nielsen ratings. I can only find a couple weeks' worth, but they bear out what I remember from the show's run - that it was, sadly, consistently at the bottom of the barrel.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:19 AM on July 8, 2009


This is sort of like the Transformers to me, a remake of something that I didn't really notice the first time around. I vaguely remember the movie but I don't even know if I knew it was a TV show.
posted by octothorpe at 11:20 AM on July 8, 2009


Although I liked the original series, I'd like something new too. On the other hand, if someone's going to give Minear a chance to produce an entire season of anything these days, I'm willing to give it a shot.
posted by nonliteral at 11:26 AM on July 8, 2009


I can only find a couple weeks' worth, but they bear out what I remember from the show's run - that it was, sadly, consistently at the bottom of the barrel.

That was generally true for Fox at the time, though, as it was a struggling, fledgling network--I was able to find the overall ratings for that year and there's not a single Fox title on there. Married . . . with Children, which was one of Fox's first hits (and escaped cancellation that year since it was a comedy) was ranked #50.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:46 AM on July 8, 2009


Further news about SciFi on SyFy: the network's Creative Director of Original Programming (title for plausible deniabilty re: wrestling shows) says to io9 that they're trying to jumpstart a "Quantum Leap" remake with Don Bellisario (who's busy doing two "NCIS" shows now) or "something like it" with somebody else. That speaks volumes about where the net's head is at. (Was "Leap" the true "horrible remake of Doctor Who"?) As for cheesy, no-budget-special-effects Space Opera... sounds like OriginalStarTrek to me.
posted by wendell at 11:49 AM on July 8, 2009


Was "Leap" the true "horrible remake of Doctor Who"?

no. star trek was. instead of traveling through time, they would somehow mysteriously either a)find a planet that was remarkably like the earth of the XXth century, or B) holodeck disaster.
posted by shmegegge at 12:11 PM on July 8, 2009


I can't see "SyFy" and take them remotely seriously anymore.
posted by rokusan at 12:29 PM on July 8, 2009


Something original would be better, but Minear proved himself with his writing on Angel and Firefly (Out of Gas, anyone?), and the original Alien Nation (both the series, and far less so the movie) were pretty fucking ropey, so if it can be made into a good show, it would still be worth it.

I do fear that SyFy (groan) are going after remakes due to their success with BSG. I mean, more than other networks which tried that approach (Bionic Woman for four episodes or whatever), it was their show so they feel like they're definitely onto a cheap winner no doubt.
posted by opsin at 12:55 PM on July 8, 2009


TV show pitch: I and a talented crew travel to wherever Ghost Hunters is filming and proceed to scare beat the everloving shit out of them. I would totally watch that.

FTFY.

Also, we'll see how Caprica, the Battlestar Galactica prequel, works out for SyFy.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:56 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


@explosion:

They stopped calling it Fleet Center because FleetBank merged with Bank of America and PAID to be released from its name/sponsorship agreement, which was subsequently purchased by TD Banknorth (who use the colour green prominently in their advertising and are owned by the Canadian TD Bank). So the building lacked a name, and a corporation that had both a likely sensitivity to hockey history AND a "green" image put up the money to name it "TD Banknorth Garden". So don't be waiting for a popular uprising to force SyFy to change their name unless it coincides with someone with a lot of money buying the station.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:05 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Tencton language was rather poorly crafted, I think, especially the writing system. This could stand to be improved.
posted by joeclark at 1:14 PM on July 8, 2009


BSG/Caprica Spoiler:

Is it just me or did they fuck up the continuity of BSG when Stoltz 'created' a newer model centurion Cylon in the Caprica movie?
posted by P.o.B. at 1:21 PM on July 8, 2009


Is it just me or did they fuck up the continuity of BSG when Stoltz 'created' a newer model centurion Cylon in the Caprica movie?

Oh yeah, BSG was all about a tight plot and continuity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:46 PM on July 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Uhmmmm....okay. Question answered with snark. Good one BB. At least I'm not crying about how my favorite Firefly characters were killed off.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:18 PM on July 8, 2009


NERD FIGHT!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:23 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I MISS WASH!
posted by shmegegge at 2:26 PM on July 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have to go with Brandon Blatcher - Internal consistency as regards Cylons was not one of the shows strong points.
posted by Artw at 2:39 PM on July 8, 2009


PoB: The one in Caprica looked a lot like the "old-style" centurions we saw in the BSG finale. More robotic and less dude-in-a-suit than the 1978 centurions.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:46 PM on July 8, 2009


The upcoming movie District 9 (official site, apple trailers) is taking part of the premise of Alien Nation and updating it today already. Which is not to say there isn't room for a Alien Nation reboot.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:50 PM on July 8, 2009


KILL ZOMBIE WASH

I love that no one gets this shirt when I wear it to work.
posted by quin at 3:09 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


PoB: The one in Caprica looked a lot like the "old-style" centurions we saw in the BSG finale.

Thank you ROU. It's just me then. I watched the whole show including all the webisodes and tv movies in a rather short time so I'm probably misremembering it and mashing them together.
Aside from the slap-dash ending to the show, of which I didn't really have a problem with, I didn't see much inconsistency in the show having watched all the episodes very close together. I'm using that term by way of what the show had previously built upon and for the viewer to expect.

I remember Alien Nation (Alienation). With James Caan and someone shooting a very large weapon through a car. It's a prime subject for an update.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:11 PM on July 8, 2009


That would be a drum fed Benelli M1 Super 90 (or maybe an M2). I don't remember if they say specifically, but I think the idea was that the drum held some kind of more powerful slug-like round, capable of piercing the car, the cop, and his vest.
posted by quin at 3:40 PM on July 8, 2009


Surely Alyen Natyon.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:45 PM on July 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


>As an aside, can we stop with this "SyFy" silliness? It's SciFi...

Actually, it has long been Sifi (pronounced "Sifee") to their own fans, in an attempt to distinguish the channel from the genre.

Why they didn't run with the spelling their fans were already using is beyond me. Just another "Frak You," I guess.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:12 PM on July 8, 2009


SyFy was dead to me after they cancelled FARSCAPE. Then they were resurrected briefly after they gave FARSCAPE the two-hour movie to resolve the series. Now they are dead again with their adoption of the shitty, shitty name SyFy combined with, you know, mostly showing that crappy paranormal garbage.
posted by Justinian at 10:15 PM on July 8, 2009


Don't like "Syfy"? Maybe you need to follow their new tagline and imagine greater. Their website is all kinds of Ajaxy trendiness, inconsistent 3D craziness, and using Flash for stuff you could use JavaScript to do. Annoyingly, they didn't rename SCI FI Wire to SyFyWyre.

I liked Warehouse 13. Mrs. Frederick's sidekick looked like he had pantyhose over his head but he didn't (starting at about 45 seconds into the sneak peak).
posted by kirkaracha at 9:35 AM on July 9, 2009


They'll do a horrible remake of Dr. Who next.

How would one tell the difference?


American Accents and better production quality.

Was "Leap" the true "horrible remake of Doctor Who"?

Having viewed Quantum Leap again recently, it holds up surprisingly well. As compared to say MacGyver, which was in incredible let down. That show wasn't nearly as cool as I remembered it being.
posted by willnot at 2:21 PM on July 9, 2009


« Older "The Public School...  |  "You could be a doorstop or pa... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments