Alien Nation #15: Generation to Generation

Everybody wants the Heart of Tancton. Matt becomes a Big Brother. Uncle Moodri dies.
SLAGS LIKE US: The way humans are buying Newcomer artifacts from the ship in auctions is probably meant to echo the treasures the Nazis appropriated from the Jews and others during WWII.

REVIEW: What do we leave the next generation? Even for people with strong traditions and values, this can be difficult, especially when their culture is under threat. As a member of a cultural/linguistic minority, I see it all the time, and Emily finding it a chore to speak her own language when she's surrounded by English definitely strikes a chord. Not everyone is as militant as Buck or Uncle Moodri (a character that has even rejected his "human" name, and we never hear it). For the Newcomers, being immersed in human culture means they are in danger of losing their own, but it's been under threat for a while now. Even George wasn't born on Tancton and only knows it second-hand. It's a great surprise, then, when the Heart of Tancton is opened and projects an image (likely, a full sensory experience), and WE get to see what it was like, something I never thought the show would get to. And through that image, there's a real sense of what these people have lost, not just the beautiful place and an obviously advanced culture, but great science as well. The technology that makes the Heart possible is advanced to the point of looking like magic!

Unfortunately, the plot isn't anything special. We're led by the nose as various characters play hot potato with the McGuffin, including a caricatured aging hippie, an obsessed corporate engineer, and Uncle Moodri and his gang of Elders. Only the latter hold any real interest - and the promise of a stronger Newcomer culture in the future, as opposed to the human hybridization we've been seeing -  with Moodri taking his last bow, happy to have seen home one last time. Before he goes, he passes on the chain that represents his lineage, and makes room for the new baby, soon out of its pod (the birthing process is very mysterious, and I'm pretty sure the writers are having fun throwing in all sorts of weird stuff there), a literal passing of the torch, slightly depressing, but full of pathos.

I'm surprised Moodri wasn't just a one-off character in the series and turned out to be as useful and memorable as he was, given how guest characters are usually treated on Alien Nation. Case in point, the subplot has Matt adopt a Little Brother, one who would be happy with anything really, even Matt's initial neglect (a mirror of the way he treated his own daughter?). A cute little character, if not exactly multi-layered, but despite Matt bonding with him, he's never seen again. That's the show's modus operandi, keeping itself from growing its cast too large, but preventing Matt especially from getting his own family of attached characters. So Moodri really did fare much better.

- The plot is a lot of running around for a face-melting artifact, but it has a strong theme and Moodri's heroic exit.


Jeremy Patrick said...

This sounds like a show that would have really benefited from the creators allowing continuing subplots and new supporting characters to appear and continue to develop in future episodes. Unfortunately, it's still trapped in that paradigm of each episode being self-contained and as equally accessible to a new viewer as any other. I've always wondered why prime-time TV execs were so afraid of continuing stories--daytime soaps were enormously successful during the same years and had tremendously complicated continuity (approaching X-Men levels!).

Siskoid said...

It gets better pretty fast on that count, as you'll see.


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