Alien Nation #16: Eyewitness News

A news team follows George around during a smutty video phone sex case.
REVIEW: If this were made today, we'd have only seen the "documentary", and not the story surrounding it. it's a conceit we've had to sit through many times in the past 20 years, and while it's usually well done, I don't mind that Alien Nation didn't have the idea back in 1989. Angela Bassett is at least striking as the reporter, and thanks to the show's usual thematic coherence, the whole thing becomes a kind of Atom Egoyan meditation on how the camera distorts the truth; what you see isn't necessarily reality. So while George participates in news segments, they still need to stage Emily's birthday, make Matt look stupid in the editing (definitely a pro-Newcomer agenda), and interfere with the investigation by the Heisenbergian act of observing it.

The case makes similar points, as it starts with a faked murder on camera, just phone sex taken to the level of snuff films. When another attack happens, it looks like it's a case of porn stars crying wolf, but no, someone's actually out to do this girl harm. As a mystery, it's well done, with a solution that's not obvious at first and has some layer of moral complexity to it. As far as the theme goes, it also gives Angela Bassett's character the chance to show she's just as much an exploiter as Porn King Kaufmann is. And while George (and Grazer) may have let the media attention change him (again with the theme), in the end, his duty comes first. Though it's thrown in as a bit of sarcastic humor, the line "I hate it when people get in the way" is the hinge between the two plot threads, and requires George to make his choice between two agendas. Which plot is interfering with which?

Though this is not the first episode to deal with the sex trade, the Matt-Cathy relationship has advanced to the point where they should consider what happens if it progresses to something intimate. Confronted with the biological differences between humans and Tanctonese, Matt is distracted by those possibilities, even intimidated. The sexual tension is densely packed, and if Cathy's gift to him is any indication, she's preparing him for this eventuality. Hm. Somehow, an episode that puts George in the spotlight (in the world of the show), has really given Matt more to do as a detective and as a person.

THE MOVIE LEGACY: Ronald Reagan, in the film responsible for giving the Newcomers amnesty and citizenship, rates a mention in the Francisco household. The PR value of having a Newcomer detective was a big part of the film, but this is really the first time the series has invoked it.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Good theme, good mystery, good subplots.

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