Alien Nation #28: The Udara Legacy

Ruthless humans are using Newcomer resistance sleepers to commit crimes.
SLAGS LIKE US: The incident with the "funny" racist video of the police academy trainees was pulled right off the time's headlines, just replace the police with a fire department, and Newcomers with female trainees. The monkey sounds used on the Newcomer video make it especially uncomfortable viewing. Fear of minorities having the vote, only to find that minority candidates aren't trusted by members of that minority because they might skew towards over-impartiality has happened again and again in human history. Obviously, we can make all sorts of parallels between human extremist groups who indoctrinate children and commit acts of terrorism to the Udara.

REVIEW: Though this wasn't designed to be the last Alien Nation film (hey, were we EVER going to find out who the slavers were?), it still manages to get us out on a high. The idea of a Tenctonese resistance is good fodder for flashbacks, but that this resistance had a dangerous extremist group, one that used mental programming to create sleeper agents who could complete suicide missions, gets us to a more chilling place, especially post-9/11. The show really goes for it too, with a tense and exciting suicide bomber sequence engineered by persons unknown, and both Matt and George are called upon for courage and intelligence. But what really makes this a stand-out idea for an episode is that Susan was a member of the Udara, and quite shockingly, allowed little Emily to be programmed by her cell. All of which wouldn't matter in a post-crash world, where the revolution need not come, except that someone's gotten their hands on the triggers and is selling the services of Newcomer sleepers to the highest bidder. We realize early on that Emily WILL be activated and what must happen for her not to complete her task and commit suicide, but it doesn't make the idea any less effective. As usual, the case du jour is made personal, and in a way that makes us accept the various coincidences that led us there.

The strength of the Franciscos' marriage is tested, and we're reminded once again - in that relationship as much as Matt/Cathy's - that the female is dominant in Newcomer culture. Again, imagine these scenes with the genders reversed, and they take on another bent. We're used to men playing mavericks who fall just outside the law and don't share things with their partners (just as we're used to women playing vamps who get their way or change the subject by using their sexual wiles). Here, it's all reversed, and it's interesting to think about what effect that has on the audience. Alien Nation makes good viewing just on that basis. At the same time, the Newcomers are living in a human culture and Susan is also a "cop's wife" who dreads getting the call one day that her husband's been killed on duty. With Buck turning his heroism during the events of The Enemy Within into a passion for becoming a policeman like his dad, she now has twice the dread. Note how she's turned her daughter into a Udara agent, a lethal role, and is angry at George for inspiring Buck to follow in HIS dangerous footsteps. Interesting parallels as Susan's secrets are exposed. Happily, the marriage survives.

In the background, but coming to the foreground as the film progresses is the political attention Newcomers are now getting. Since we last looked at the issue, they've gained the right to vote, and a senatorial election pits a human incumbent against a Newcomer candidate. At first, you'd be allowed to think that the various sleeper crimes are in the service of giving Newcomers a bad reputation to put "Paul Bearer"'s candidacy in peril. But no, they are mercenary acts. And then the human senator gets his hands dirty by killing the trigger man and turning Emily into a would-be assassin that's supposed to shoot him non-fatally so he can win the election on sympathy and dirty any Newcomer candidate's appeal. A bit of a shortcut - I could never believe someone that high up on the food chain would personally commit a murder and jeopardize his position (House of Cards not withstanding). Everything in the episode actively puts Newcomers under careful scrutiny, whether it's an unusual number of media people in the frame, the video filmed at the academy to embarrass trainees like Buck, or police surveillance at Emily's school. Even Susan has an unusual blouse with a target on the back. The idea is that Newcomers must be more careful, more hardworking, more upright and honest, because of human bias. The parallel with the American Civil Rights Movement is unshakable, and the debate that set violent against peaceful demonstration (X vs. King) rages in the Francisco household, and Newcomer society. All could be lost for the actions of a violent few and the intensified surveillance of the The Udara Legacy reminds us of that at every turn.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A new aspect of the slave experience is explored, with shocking twists for the Francisco family and plenty of suspenseful moments for the cast. Alien Nation ends on a good note, without leaving any real loose ends.

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