Since there has been lots of talk of remakes, including a proposed remake of British SF cult classic Blake’s Seven , I thought about lots of old SF series’ that may actually be due for a new version. In that vein, I thought about a podcast I enjoy Alien Nation: The Newcomer’s Podcast. There were rumors for some time of a remake of the series, Alien Nation about the same time as V (rather lackluster IMO). But the original series, Alien Nation, was an original, thought provoking show. It didn’t last for many episodes, but did have some spin-off comics and the like and lots of discussion and ideas.
To recap for those who are not familiar with Alien Nation franchise: Alien Nation was a 1988 science fiction film centering around two LA police detectives Matthew Sykes (James Caan) and George Francisco ( Mandy Patinkin). George Francisco is a Newcomer, one of a group of aliens whose slave ship created to Earth. They are characterized by large, spotted craniums and a few other biological differences. Since the crash, they have slowly been integrated into society. The film is a buddy cop genre movie, but the series allows the audience to learn more about the Newcomers, their lives as slaves, and their culture. In this version, George Francisco (played by Eric Pierpoint) often focuses both on work and family; and the episodes concern issues such as racism, discrimination, illegal immigration, even sexuality. Matthew Sykes (played by Gary Graham, who later played Ambassador Soval in Enterprise) develops deeper relationships with other Newcomers include a single, Newcomer woman named Cathy.
Alien Nation: The Newcomer’s Podcast is hosted once a month by brothers Kenny and Michael Mittleider. Each podcast covers an episode in detail including summary, themes, cast notes, etc. This thorough approach is welcome for fans of the series, esp. those of us who are presently surprised to reminisce. Discussion is interspersed with audio clips from the show and the brothers often have lively discussion of the social themes presented in each episode.
AVAILIBILTY: iTunes, Stitcher. New podcast once a month. Suitable for general audiences.
What do you think of the use of science fiction to confront social issues? Do you think it works?
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4 thoughts on “Podcast Review: Alien Nation-The Newcomer’s Podcast”
I think genre fiction (scifi, fantasy, et al) have all been used to successfully contribute to the discussion on social issues. Look at any Scifi book with alien races and you’re sure to find subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle commentary on racism. Even ones with that trope of “Mars needs women” (discussed here not too long ago), tackles issues related to gender and perceived roles, with varying levels of success. I think in *any* good book there will be social commentary. As that’s where so much of real life’s conflicts stem from, it only makes sense that this would be reflected in the fiction we create. Books like Brave New World and 1984 have been making social and political commentary for decades now, and they’re viewed as “classic literature”. I don’t think it’s a matter of “does it work”, but “when doesn’t it work”. It’s all about an author’s skill in bringing these issues to the forefront without detracting from the story or appearing overly preachy. Sometimes the subtle hints of racism can be just as powerful as a plot built around throwing off the tyranny of oppressors. Of course, this is just my opinion. 🙂
Thanks for that wonderful comment. I had a discussion with a colleague once who claimed he didn’t like social commentary in SF-he wanted it to be just fun. I thought about his comment (even though I didn’t agree) and I think what people dislike is when the commentary is so ham-fisted it can’t be missed. To an extent, any SF that involves an alien race, in particular, will have some social commentary simply because humans are the only race we know and by default the aliens will have to be human-like in some way for the sake of a story.
I love, love, love Alien Nation! I agree that it is ripe for a remake. As I remember the movie centered a great deal on drugs. That was the issue of the day at the time and would likely be set aside for an updated topic in any remake. The race/class/other issues would all still work, perhaps even better than ever. it is fun to speculate what new element might be droped in in place of the drugs. Though, of course, we still have drug problems we just have a more nuanced attitude about them now.
I’ve listened in on the podcast a few times and enjoyed it. Thanks for bringing to light!
I searched around for remake rumors-but nothing current. There was some speculation it would be set in the Pacific Northwest rather than LA. I do think they would change some of the tone-I have a feeling they might may the culture more complex ie. the aliens more ‘alien’ and go from there. That might work.
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