The SciFi Channel is developing a new television series based on Alien Nation, a 1988 science fiction movie that spawned a TV series and a handful of made-for-TV movies.  Written by Rockne S. O’Bannon, the Alien Nation movie was a dark police procedural with a science fiction twist.  Aliens known as “Newcomers” who crashed in the California desert formed a colony of sorts in the Los Angeles area, and a human policeman (Matthew Sykes) teams up with an alien cop (Sam, later “George” Francisco) to investigate a number of crimes in the Newcomer community.


According to Variety, the cable channel sees Alien Nation, with its prominent police procedural elements, as being more than just hard sci-fi, and thus a perfect choice for the network, which is trying to “widen its footprint” as it prepares to re-brand itself as the SyFy Channel starting next week (see “SciFi Becomes SyFy”) in what has become a controversial marketing maneuver (see “SciFi Founder Hates SyFy”).


Tim Minnear, who has worked on Angel, The X-Files, and Firefly, is creating the backstory and mythology for the new Alien Nation.  The series is likely to take its cue more from the Alien Nation TV series, which was essentially a series of morality plays about the evils of racism with the Newcomers standing in for racial, ethnic, and even gender minorities, than from the original feature film. 


The TV series only lasted on year on Fox before it was cancelled (along with all the other dramatic series on the fledgling network because of a cash crunch), but it made a definite impression.  It developed a cult following and inspired a number of spin-offs including a series of novels, a comic book from Malibu’s Adventure Comics imprint that was published from 1990-1992, and five made-for-TV-movies, which Fox began airing in 1994.


The ratings success of the updated Battlestar Galactica is behind the cable network’s desire to reboot Alien Nation for 21st Century audiences.  The new version of Alien Nation will take place in the Pacific Northwest in the 2020s after the Newcomers have grown to a minority of over 3 million living in ghettoized communities.  Like the original TV show, the new Alien Nation will be a “buddy cop” series that takes on the issues of racism, immigration, assimilation, and the clash of cultures, and like the original it will also include some satire and humor.