Alien Nation: Ultimate Movie Collection review, Alien Nation: Ultimate Movie Collection DVD
Starring
Gary Graham, Eric Pierpoint, Michele Scarabelli, Lauren Woodward, Sean Six, Terri Treas, Jeff Marcus, Ron Fassler, Jenny Gago
Director
Kenneth Johnson
Alien Nation:
Ultimate Movie Collection

Reviewed by Will Harris

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it back and learn, my children, of the life and times of “Alien Nation.” First, there was the 1988 movie, starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin, that told the tale of how a flying saucer full of alien slaves landed in the Mojave Desert and led to the integration of thousands upon thousands of extraterrestrials into our planet’s population. Then, there was the Fox TV series, which expanded on the premise of the film by further exploring life in Los Angeles and how the addition of the so-called Newcomers (otherwise known as the Tenctonese) has changed things. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after only a single season, but there were enough fans to warrant a TV movie to continue the characters’ adventures. When that proved successful, there were four more TV movies.

Given the influx of TV-DVD sets being released, it was no surprise that “Alien Nation: the Complete Series” appeared in stores in early 2006, but the inevitable question from the aforementioned fans was, “That’s very nice. Now, where are the TV movies?”

Why, here they are! They’re now readily available at your friendly neighborhood DVD retailer, but if we’re to be perfectly honest, this review is probably a bit late in coming for most “Alien Nation” fans. Although we’ve only just received our screener copy from the fine folks at Fox, the real diehards have probably had their copies ever since Best Buy offered the set as an exclusive at their stores back in September 2007. Still, if you only have a casual interest in these films, we figure it’s still worth offering up our two cents’ worth.

The five films (“Dark Horizon,” “Body and Soul,” “Millennium,” “The Enemy Within” and “The Udara Legacy”) aired on Fox over the course of four years (1994 through 1996), and you can quite readily see the effects of the passing years both on the faces of the actors and, more importantly, on their clothes and hair. It’s most obvious with two characters: Detective Matthew Sykes (Gary Graham) sports a mother of a mullet for the first several flicks, only finally trimming his locks to a less embarrassing length in 1996’s “The Enemy Within,” while Emily Francisco (Lauren Woodland) quite obviously proceeds through puberty over the course of the five flicks.

It goes without saying that fans of the previous “Alien Nation” projects will enjoy these movies more than anyone else, but most any sci-fi fan will find them to be pleasant viewing. It’s a testament to creator Kenneth Johnson’s love of the series and his desire for quality product that he managed to retrieve all of the primary cast members for all five films, and that’s probably because he attempted to expand all of the characters in some capacity within every film. The romance between Matthew and Cathy Frankel, his Newcomer girlfriend, progresses realistically, with the subplot of “Body and Soul,” focusing on the physical and emotional differences between the two races. It’s a running joke that Tenctonese sex is decidedly more exuberant than human sex, so when Matthew comes into the station with his neck bent in an odd position, the first question he’s asked by George (Eric Pierpoint) is, “Did you and Cathy attempt to copulate last night?” There are plenty of stories surrounding the familial relationship of George, his wife Susan (Michele Scarabelli), and their children Emily and Buck (Sean Six), with Buck forever trying to determine what his future will hold and Emily growing up and dealing with her budding womanhood.

The best of the bunch? Tough call. For fans, it’s probably the aforementioned “Body and Soul,” which, in addition to all of the character progression, also includes a plot about a child who appears to be half-human and half-Tenctonese. For those with limited experience in the “Alien Nation” universe, however, the final film, “The Udara Legacy” offers a storyline about sleeper agents within the Tenctonese population that’s reminiscent of “The Manchurian Candidate” or “Telefon,” and easy to appreciate on an action-drama level. Ironically, the film that revived the franchise – “Dark Horizon” – is the least impressive, but that’s probably because it existed as much to provide closure for the original series’ cliffhangers as anything else.

Sadly, there’s been no suggestion that we’ll ever see another “Alien Nation” film, but it’d sure be nice if that came to pass one of these days. As it stands right now, all of the major players are still alive, well, and happy to praise the time they spent working together. If someone put together a good script, one suspects they’d all be back in a heartbeat.


Ultimate Movie Collection DVD Review:

Given what a labor of love the “Alien Nation” series was for Johnson, it’s no wonder that he’s done his best to trick this set out with as much bonus material as possible. He’s provided a personal commentary for each of the five movies, culled together making-of featurettes for all of them with footage from his personal collection, and compiled gag reels as well. The most enjoyable feature for fans, however, will likely prove to be the reunion of the entire cast at Johnson’s own home, where they reminisce about their experiences on both the show and the subsequent films. (No surprise here: there’s a lot of grousing about the Newcomer make-up.)

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