'Alien Nation' worth dropping in on

October 25, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

If you missed the Fox TV series "Alien Nation," try to imagine "The Coneheads" played without laughs.

A movie based on the cancelled series airs at 8 tonight on WBFF (Channel 45), and it's an exercise in science fiction meeting political correctness, with a possible intergalactic war in which the fate of the universe might be at stake -- not to mention the future of mankind.

Science fiction writers tend to think in big, big terms.

But the appeal of "Alien Nation: Dark Horizon," which is a not-half-bad film, isn't in the special effects, which are just OK. The appeal is in the earthly matters that concern the humans and the aliens, who are called Newcomers.

The film is set in the very-near future of Los Angeles, and a group of aliens -- whose main differences from humans are that they have oversized skulls, no hair and only the top of their ears showing -- has managed for the most part to integrate itself into the community.

But their original rulers have a plan to recapture them and return them to their former slave status. As if that's not bad enough, a hate group here on earth is developing germ warfare to destroy them.

Into the breach steps Detective Matthew Sikes (Gary Graham) and his Newcomer partner, George Francisco (Eric Pierpoint) to sort out who's harmless and who's out to destroy life as we know it.

There are other matters to sort out here, too, such as interplanetary dating -- Can it work? Or, are the differences too large? And what about real estate values? Do Newcomers really lower property values or is that just more fear-mongering on the part of bigots?

This is a very likable cast, and the script even has its moments of levity, as when an evil alien (called an Overseer) lands on earth and studies Gregory Peck in "To Kill a Mockingbird" for tips on culture and deportment. Then, there's the discovery that an effective antidote for the germ warfare involves female hormones -- those things that some male earthlings blame for all sorts of woes.

The inside jokes for adults who are interested in things not quite so immense as planetary survival are fun to count -- starting with a female bigot named Bryant (Anita Bryant?).

"Alien Nation: Dark Horizon" kicks off a weeklong Halloween fest for Fox. Halloween might defines Fox. It is the one network ideally suited for a week of programming featuring weird costumes and aimed at adolescents, teens and science fiction buffs of all ages.

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