Alien Nation #3: Fountain of Youth

Surgeons are using Newcomer body parts to reverse aging in humans.
SLAGS LIKE US: 80s concerns that make it into this episode include a fear of the deteriorating ozone layer and the obsession with youth culture - though the latter really started in the 60s and is still alive and well. The episode's youth fixation does seem to be informed by the MTV generation, however, as the culture started getting less and less easy to ignore.

REVIEW: At first, it seems like Alien Nation is getting away from its core themes in this episode - it's not really about race relations - in favor of more standard "aliens on Earth" fare, but that's not quite true. It's still about discrimination as both story threads (the cops' and Susan's) have to do with ageism. By pursuing an elixir of youth, the villains in the story are placing a lower value on age than they do on youth, while Susan's job interviews go south until she starts lying about her age. This is the kind of ageism we see a lot of on TV, possibly because most of it is written by aging writers, while the reverse, older people not giving younger ones their due is rarely addressed. Our society seems to love youth, but it's something to be cultivated in the old, not something that's respected in those who actually have it. This story is no different, and I'm not sure what lesson we're supposed to take from Susan's grin at the end. It seems it's wrong to fake one's youth, but only because it's at the cost of Newcomer lives. There's an irony here, but the episode doesn't seem to know it.

It's interesting that while the movie had Francisco somewhat bemused at Sykes' racism, and Sykes perpetually angry and disgusted at his partner's otherness, the attitudes are somewhat reversed on TV. Sikes is a more easygoing character, while Francisco is tightly wound up, bristling and even raging at his partner's casual and thoughtless racism. The situation is made worse by the death of a Newcomer cop who dies wrongfully after saving his life, while Sikes unacceptably lets an old friend slide - the corrupt doctor, of course. Definitely not a perfect plot even if you believe an alien organ will take away that many years. It's a little absurd that the bad doc would roofie his old pal Sikes and operate on him as a recruitment tool, ending it in an abrupt shoot-out doesn't make for a strong finish, and Susan Gibney is kind of wasted in the role of the nurse who can look the other way no longer.

This is the first 45-minute episode of Alien Nation, half the length of the other installments, and it's the poorer for it. There just isn't time for everything. Susan has a job-hunting subplot in which she must sell herself to ad agency execs who dress like Cindy Lauper (they kind of forgot this is taking place a few years in the future and never predicted the grunge revolution). An old uncle comes to stay with his goat, which is a strange element that doesn't really pan out. I guess we'll see where this takes us in future episodes, but Susan's conversations with him could and should have been with George instead. Cathy is used as medical consultant again, a common trope in cop dramas, but she deserves better. The other cops play basketball while Albert keeps score. The kids are in there somewhere, but their stories don't progress. Nor does the plague story which seemed so important in the pilot.

The cops finally have a drink together, but it doesn't turn into a bender.

- The show must learn to juggle all its story lines better, or at least make its B-stories stronger, since the character stuff is the real heart and soul of the series, not the crime-of-the-week (the title spoils a lot of the mystery for this one anyway).



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