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Alien Nation - The Complete Series Review




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Rating
Video:   7/10
Audio:   7/10
Extras:   2/10

Nice spots!
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
1/24/2006

    As Newcomers - fugitive slaves from the planet Tencton - Detective George Francisco and his family face prejudice and intolerance as they struggle to assimilate to life on their adopted planet. Together with his human partner, hard-edged Detective Matt Sikes, George walks the beat in Slagtown, Los Angeles, a Newcomer slum teeming with vice and corruption. More than just another cop show or science fiction show, Alien Nation utilizes a unique and exciting blend of action, suspense, humor, and social drama to explore the sociology of what it means to be an outsider striving to fit in.
Alien Nation was created as the successor to the 1988 movie starring James Caan (as Sikes), and Mandy Patinkin (as Francisco). The series aired 22 episodes, including the two-hour pilot movie, on Fox in the 89-90 season. It ended after a season, but gained new life in 5 TV movies airing between 94 and 97. This 6 disc set contains the regular season, not the TV movies.

Disc 1, Side A (1:35:46)
TV Movie (1:35:46)

Disc 1, Side B (1:34:01)
Fountain of Youth (47:01)
Little Lost Lamb (47:00)

Disc 2, Side A (1:33:42)
Fifteen with Wanda (46:53)
The Takeover (46:49)

Disc 2, Side B (1:33:49)
The First Chapter (46:55)
Night of the Screams (46:54)

Disc 3, Side A (1:33:38)
Contact (46:53)
Three to Tango (46:45)

Disc 3, Side B (1:33:44)
The Game (46:50)
Chains of Love (46:54)

Disc 4, Side A (1:33:48)
The Red Room (46:53)
The Spirit of '95 (46:55)

Disc 4, Side B (1:33:37)
Generation to Generation (46:49)
Eyewitness News (46:48)

Disc 5, Side A (1:33:40)
Partners (46:51)
Real Men (46:49)

Disc 5, Side B (1:33:34)
Crossing the Line (46:48)
Rebirth (46:46)

Disc 6, Side A (1:33:34)
Gimme, Gimme (46:46)
The Touch (46:48)

Disc 6, Side B (46:43)
Green Eyes (46:43)

Video

Alien Nation has been released in the regular 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The quality of the set leaves a bit to be desired in terms of video quality. The prints contain some dust and debris; the amount depends on the scene, but it varies from hardly any to quite a bit. The picture is also soft, and some scenes look as though they are out of focus. Most of the video is decent quality. Skin tones look a little orange in places, mostly shots inside the station. There are chapters set after the opening of the episode, though they're set incorrectly on a few episodes. The discs lack a "play all" option.

I don't like the structure of these discs at all. Fox has gone from DVD-9s (single-sided, dual-layer) to DVD-14s (double-sided, two layers on one side, one on the other), and now to DVD-10s (double-sided, single-layer). There's no need for these double-sided discs; most consumers hate them, and there's no benefit I can see using these instead of DVD-9s.

Audio

These episodes contain audio tracks in English (stereo) and Spanish (mono). I don't have any complaints regarding the audio; there aren't any technical flaws that are caused by the transfer to DVD. The voices are clear, and easy to understand, though some of the synth music dates the series (but I'm not advocating for a soundtrack update; I like the music). There are subtitles in English and Spanish.

Extras - How we rate extras

Commentary by Kenneth Johnson
Kenneth (or Kenny, as he likes to be called) Johnson provides commentary on the TV movie that kicked off the series. It's a great track; he recalls details of the pilot, and also mentions the remaining series episodes. It's worth listening to if you're a fan of the show.

Behind the Scenes Featurette (3:39)
This is a very, very short featurette which is promotional in nature. Ken Johnson is interviewed, and he talks about the series he brought to TV; Gary Graham ("Sikes"), Eric Pierpoint ("George Francisco"), Michele Scarabelli ("Susan Francisco"), and others, are also interviewed.

Summary

I'm not sure if I ever watched this show when it was on, or the movie which preceded it, but I knew a bit about the series before I watched it. I say "a bit," because I had it pegged as a cheesy sci-fi series (forgive me, it was only on for one year, and the aliens are bald with doodles on their heads). It's far from cheesy, and I found myself enjoying the series more than I thought I would; a lot more. There are some obvious themes that run through the series, with racism being the most predominant. I thought this was handled well, and while it's obvious in a few episodes (well, most of them), it helps the viewer to understand the situation the newcomers are in.

This is a pretty plain DVD set, and I heard rumors that Johnson's involvement was done at the last minute and the extra material he could contribute to the set couldn't be included. His commentary track is great, and I hope that the remaining movies are released so he can contribute some of the material he has in his collection. The double-sided discs bother me (especially since one of mine was scratched, which caused an episode to skip). I plan on asking Fox why they opted to go with DVD-10s instead of DVD-9s for the set (and many others they're releasing now).

Let's hope the TV movies are on the slate for later this year.


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