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File:Alien-nation 5652.jpg

Alien Nation is a Buddy Cop Show with a Sitcom twist: the minority partner is a space alien. A human detective named Matthew Sikes is partnered with an alien immigrant named George Francisco to solve crimes arising from the uneasy relationship between the "Newcomers" and their human neighbors. The television series, based on the film Alien Nation, lasted for 22 episodes from September, 1989 to May, 1990. Five television movies were later produced, released between 1994 and 1997.

As the story goes, at some point in the early 1990s, a malfunctioning starship loaded with a population of 250,000 alien slave laborers landed in the desert outside Los Angeles. The Newcomers (their real name is the Tenctonese) were remarkably adaptable to new information and environments. They are extremely strong and can learn quickly. They become intoxicated from spoiled milk, and their flesh burns when exposed to seawater.

The Newcomers had two personal names, the one that they were given by their parents or former masters, and an "Earth name" handed out by the immigration service. With 250,000 names to distribute, some of them are quite odd. George's name was originally "Sam Francisco", but he changed it at Matt's request. Other odd Newcomer names: "Dallas Fort-Worth", "Amos N. Andy", "Polly Wannacracker", "Thomas and Alva Edison".

The situation of the Newcomers is a clear parallel to many other immigrant populations throughout history. They are isolated by their culture and language, and have to strike a balance between assimilation into Earth culture and maintaining their roots. They experience discrimination, and are forced into jobs as laborers in hostile environments. They are accused of "Takin' our Jobs!" by many blue-collar types.

Matt himself is initially very bigoted towards Newcomers, but as is typical for such a plot, he learns to accept his new partner. He even ends up in a serious relationship with a Newcomer woman, Cathy Frankel.

Tropes used in Alien Nation (TV series) include:
  • Aborted Arc: A couple in the jump from pilot to series, and from series to TV-movies. A sampling:
    • The plot-thread about a virus crossing from Newcomers to humans in the pilot is never mentioned again.
    • The kicker of the pilot is that an Overseer conspiracy is responsible for the death of Sikes' previous partner. While the Overseers do show up later in the series, they have nowhere near the level of power implied by the pilot, nor is murdering Sikes' partner ever brought up again.
    • In the last few episodes of the series, Buck becomes close with a social activist teacher; in the series finale, they begin an affair. Not only is this never brought up again, in the second TV-movie, Buck is joining protests against human/Newcomer mating.
  • Abusive Parents: Sikes' dad was more neglectful than physically abusive, but the effect was largely the same
  • Adaptive Ability: The Newcomers were a slave race bred to adapt to any environment; Earth is a tough one for them, though...
  • Affably Evil: The Purist leader in the series finale and first movie is a genuinely sweet old lady who is orchestrating genocide by bioweapon.
  • Alien Among Us: The Tenctonese/Newcomers are refugees and slaves. In this case it was over 100,000 aliens, who form their own community in Los Angeles. Therefore the cultural misunderstandings went both ways, as humans learned to deal with odd newcomer traditions.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated:
    • One of the TV movies had Cathy moving in with Matt and decorating the place with clown paintings and figurines. It turns out that clowns are pretty popular with the Tenctonese, partly because they're so colorful, and partly because the Tenctonese have never seen anything like them.
    • In the series, Cathy can't understand how Matt can watch something as violent as The Three Stooges, and recommends a really great movie... The Love Bug.
  • Alien Lunch
  • Alternate History: Because the aliens landed Twenty Minutes Into the Future when the original movie was made, by the time of some of the later episodes and movies of the series, technology has progressed very differently. In the most recent one, the internet and interaction technology have obviously taken huge leaps forward, but everyone was still using CRT monitors well after most of the "real" world had switched to flatscreen.
    • Also, apparently the ERA passed at some point and Puerto Rico is a US state.
  • Applied Phlebotinum
  • As You Know: "Millennium" does this to recap the episode where Sikes and Francisco found the Portal. Justified a little bit in that the episode in question was broadcast 6 years earlier and happened in-universe 3 years earlier, but it's still pretty blatant.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: George is polite, mild-mannered, and rule-abiding. Until you push him that inch too far, and then you're gonna be very sorry.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Betty Ross is a successful entrepreneur and pillar of the Newcomer community. In fact, she's a ruthless drug kingpin. But the real kicker is that she's one of the Overseers.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The basis for 1/4 of the show's humor. Newcomers can't get near saltwater, it's like taking a bath in battery acid for them. They blink when they sneeze. Partway through a pregnancy, the female transfers the natal pod to the male. Instead of getting headaches their feet swell when under stress. Their bodies cannot process cooked meat proteins (The can eat it, but they don't get anything out of it). They have a third gender called Binnaum, who are necessary for catalyzing a pregnancy. Binnaums offer a high-demand service, but make up a very small percentage of the population.
  • Black Like Me: Slag Like Me, an Expanded Universe novel in which a human reporter goes undercover as a Newcomer and reports on their experiences. Matt and George wind up having to investigate the murder.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Most of the Newcomers. George and Cathy especially flub a lot of expressions around Matt.
  • Broken Pedestal: the cop who taught Matt in the force frames George for stealing drugs. And of course, Redemption Equals Death.
  • Buddy Cop Show
  • Bug War: A hate group attempts to invoke this trope, claiming the Newcomers are actually the pupa stage of a race of giant killer beetles. Turns out the giant bug was just some hired goon in a costume.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant: In the Expanded Universe novel Cross of Blood, Tectonese Cathy Frankel turned out to be pregnant. This came as a shock to her human boyfriend Detective Matt Sikes, because among the Tectonese, pregnancy can only occur when the female is inseminated by a "third" gender or "catalyst." It is later discovered that, due to their genetic adaptability, a Human/Tectonese pairing can result in pregnancy. Unfortunately, Matt and Cathy's child was unable to survive after being born, due to her mixed genetics.
  • By-The-Book Cop: George Francisco.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Every single member of the Kleezantsun ever portrayed in the series is a baby-eating Complete Monster, and absolutely none of them have regrets about their past (or present) misdeeds.
  • Child Soldiers / Tyke Bomb: The Udara "seeded" sleeper agents to fight the Overseers during slavery, many of whom were children, including Emily.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In the pilot, Emily is befriended by Molly, daughter of the Francisco's neighbor. Despite appearing in the opening credits in the first half of the series, Molly never appears again.
    • Halfway through the series, along with Molly, two other characters are removed from the opening credits; Burns the reporter is a major character in one later episode, but fellow detective Dobbs is never seen again.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Albert Einstein
  • Cool Shades: George frequently wore these.
  • Come Alone
  • Continuation: After the series was canceled, the story was continued in a series of Tie-In Novels. Two of them (Dark Horizon and Body and Soul) were based on unfilmed scripts, which were later made into Made-for-TV Movies.
  • Date Rape: Emily is almost the victim of this in the third movie.
  • Dead Partner: Bill Tuggle, killed in the original movie.
  • Death World: Earth is practically one of these for the Tenctonese; see the explanation for Weaksauce Weakness.
  • Defusing the Tykebomb: Susan does this to Emily, just in the nick of time
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life: Buck. So much.
  • Domestic Abuse: George is guilty of this. He throws Buck around and almost strikes him. Later, he's physically rough with Emily as well as yelling at her while he tries to wash off an overseer mark she made on her wrist. Yelling at a child is usually non-abusive, but in the second case, Emily hadn't intentionally done anything wrong. It was akin to a human child realising that people are scared of/dislike the Nazi swastika or KKK hood and reasoning that it one of them would make a good Halloween costume.
    • But keep in mind the situation was also equivalent to a child dressing up as a Nazi and walking up to a parent who was a Holocaust survivor. Slavery wasn't something George had heard about on the news, it was something he'd lived through about a decade before. His anger is pretty understandable.
    • It should also be noted that he broke down in tears and apologized to her the instant he realized what he was doing.
    • Also in the situation with Buck George had come to the end of his patience while his son had been a blatantly Ungrateful Bastard, openly insulting his Mother, Father, and his Father's partner and friend who had stood up to an angry mob the day before in defense of Buck's own sister.
  • Don't You Like It: Inverted: If you give flowers to the Tenctonese make sure the roots are intact. Dying flowers are unpleasant.
    • In one of the movies, a Purist poisons Emily and Susan with infected flowers, and he's shown buying them at a stand and asking specifically for live flowers as a gift for Newcomers. The cut flowers Matt brought to the hospital were especially inappropriate because of the Tenctonese practice of surrounding a sick person with living things, even animals.
  • Easter Egg: Perps or witnesses in the background of the police station were usually Expies for famous people. For instance, around minute 38 in the Udara Legacy, you see a black man in a tuxedo wearing sunglasses, being lead by the hand to a chair.
  • Exotic Equipment: Newcomer genitals.
  • Fantastic Racism: Pretty much every one of the Race Tropes known to man applied perfectly straight.
    • Special notice must be given to "The Enemy Within," the fourth movie, which deals with the Fantastic Racism the Newcomers feel towards the Eenos, an untouchable class of Newcomers. The Eenos were the ones given the most disgusting jobs on the slaveship, such as to do with wastes and the dead. The other Newcomers like to believe that there is something dirty about the Eenos themselves, rather than admit that they would have done the same things if forced to by their slavemasters.
  • Fantastic Slur: Human bigots refer to Newcomers as "slags" or "spongeheads". Humans, in return, are called "Terts."
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: In the series pilot, Sykes fires into the air multiple times to break up a Purist rally.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Inverted, in that in the Tenctonese language, "Sykes" roughly translates as "excrement cranium".
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop: George Francisco and Matt Sikes, respectively. But hilariously reversed in 'Contact' against an Anti-Newcomer suspect.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Take your pick of Cathy or Susan: pinkish-hued, bald, and spotted, Tenctonese women were surprisingly attractive.
  • G-Rated Drug: Newcomers get intoxicated on sour milk. The yeast-fermented stuff that we humans prefer has no effect on them.
  • G-Rated Sex: Tenctonese erogenous zones are entirely different from humans (shoulder blades, wrists, temples), enabling them to make out on network TV.
  • Halloween Episode: A surprisingly scary one. "Tagdot is among us."
  • Happily Married: George and Susan
  • Human Outside, Alien Inside: Although they look moderately similar to humans, Tenctonese cannot metabolize cooked protein, so most of their diet consists of raw animals. See also the entries for G-Rated Drug and Weaksauce Weakness.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: A lot of them are racist towards the Newcomers.
    • The Tectonese aren't necessarily any better and the racism not only goes both ways, but exists within their own species.
    • Many of the Tectonese, especially George, believe that Humans Are Special because they welcomed The Newcomers into their world, gave total freedom to a species bred to be perfect slaves, and asked no more of them then they would themselves. Racism aside that's pretty damn impressive.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: The newcomers get drunk on sour milk.
  • Insufficiently Advanced Alien: As a slave race, that wasn't their ship or their tech. Thus, they end up no more advanced than humanity.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sikes is a bit of an ass throughout the story, but he does have moments of compassion, heroism and thoughtfulness.
    • Grazer has more of a focus on the "jerk" part of the equasion, but it's clear he cares about his officers (and Albert) very much.
  • Knight Templar: a few, such as the old Newcomer man who hunts down Overseers and kills them and the leader of the binnaums who has those who leave his order killed
  • Love Potion: The Sardonac drug.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Sikes is killed by a Newcomer robbing a convenience store, but suddenly, after a vision of the robber touching his chest, Sikes comes back to life. George gives him an alternate medical explanation, but Sikes thinks the robber has some sort of mystical powers. When they catch the robber, he portrays himself as a combination Messianic figure/Robin Hood out to save the world, and offers to show Sikes his powers. Unusually for this trope, by the end of the episode one of the explanations is disproved the robber had no mystical powers, he was just trying to get a chance to escape we aren't given any sort of conclusive answer, aside from the rather lacklustre medical explanation.
  • Messianic Archetype: Peter Rabbit tries to depict himself as one of these but it turns out to be a subversion, as he was jut using his claim of messianic abilities as a way to escape from Sikes
  • Mister Seahorse: During pregnancy, Newcomer babies are transferred from the women to the men, who are the ones who actually give birth.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Bigots refer to the Newcomers as "Slags".
  • No Biochemical Barriers: The Newcomers may eat weird stuff, like raw beaver and wood chips, but it's all Earth-originated.
  • Odd Couple: Matt and Cathy.
    • More traditionally, Matt and George.
  • Ominous Floating Spaceship: The Newcomers' spaceship for its first appearance.
  • Police Procedural: With a twist.
  • Power of Love
  • Pun-Based Title
  • Punch a Wall: Newcomers are ... stronger than humans.

Sykes: I hope they don't charge us for that table.
George: Do you think they might? I only tapped it.

  • Punny Name: Most of the Newcomers, including George (whose human name officially was "Sam Francisco"). Explained as the immigration authorities getting burned out assigning names to the Newcomers and resorting to a form of sarcastic humor. Likewise with the title of the series itself.
  • Puny Earthlings: The Newcomers have great strength, stamina, durability, ability to survive in environments humans can't, extra hearts, and if they overdose on an extraterrestrial narcotic, they transform into murderous, supercharged berserkers. But they do have a strange weakness or two: Water with high salinity burns them like sulphuric acid burns naked mole rats and they get stinking drunk from sour milk.
    • And in the books it comes up they don't handle cold well at all: evidently their common buyers favored hot, dry worlds and they've been adapted to deserts. This is a minor factor contributing to their continued concentration in Los Angeles.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Udara.
  • Retcon: In the transition from Movie to TV Series, the actors were recast and the ages of relative ages of Matthew Sikes and his daughter were changed. George's family grew and his children were aged up with Matt's daughter was aged down to a teenager for the series. Events from the movie, however, were referenced several times in the two-hour Pilot Episode, and some footage was reshot and spliced with footage from the movie for flashbacks, now featuring the younger Matt Sikes of the series in place of James Caan, who played the character in the original movie. When the series was revived in the form of TV Movies, Canon Discontinuity was again selective: Emily, George's young daughter, was aged up to a teenager while Buck, the older son, didn't seem to age between the series and the first TV movie, nor did Baby Vessna. These discrepancies can only be solved by the application of the Literary Agent Hypothesis. Also, the color of Tenctonese blood was made pink in the TV show and the TV movies, probably to appease censors, whereas it was the same color as human blood in the original movie.
    • The male Techtonese design was also changed (at least for George) from being much burlier than a typical human male, to being the same body form range as human males. They're still just as strong as ever.
  • Ridiculous Future Sequelisation: A common gag.
  • Rubber Forehead Aliens
  • Science Is Bad: In episode 2, the criminal was a human scientist who was extracting a gland from his Newcomer patients in order to reverse aging in his human ones, which killed the Newcomers. At the end of the episode Matt burns his research, invoking this trope in combination with Humans Are the Real Monsters, saying essentially that while a more ethical scientist could probably have done something good with it, he couldn't trust that someone couldn't have used it to do something worse
  • Shaming the Mob: In the pilot, when a group of 'concerned parents' tries to keep Emily out of her school, Sikes lets them all have it. This may be one of the first times Sikes himself treats a Newcomer with any respect, but he does have limits.
    • The video is here. Following the verbal smackdown, Sikes asks them all, "Aren't you ashamed of yourselves? Aren't you?" A black protester, of age to have seen racial integration of public schools first hand, can't answer.
  • Smug Snake: A lot of the Overseers; in one episode, one that's been living in a flophouse can't help but sneer at George after the guy saved his life.
  • Starfish Language: Tenctonese.
  • Super Strength: The Newcomers were bred for it.
  • Teacher-Student Romance: Buck and his English teacher start making out near the end of the last episode of the series. This storyline is not continued in the TV-Movies.
  • They Walk Among Us
  • Too Dumb to Live: The guy who tries to seduce Emily in the third TV movie. This is idiotic to begin with, given that sexually experienced inter-species couples need months of classes to have sex safely. But wait, it gets better, when after getting her to come to his house, he goes to the next room to have a phone conversation in which he brags about how he's going to "bag the slag"; Emily, like all Newcomers, has superhearing. Oops. But the kicker? After she finds out what he's up to, he assaults her, despite the fact that A: she has superstrength, and B: her father is a cop.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future
  • Unusual Euphemism: The aliens use the term "sykes", which is later revealed to literally translate as "excrement cranium". Coincidentally, the main human character is named Sykes...
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Newcomer flesh dissolves on contact with salt water. When they first arrive, they can't even leave the ship's crash site in California due to the salt content of Earth's atmosphere. They slowly build up resistance, and after a few years can live comfortably in coastal air. However it's still often a plot point, because salt is such an easy and safe weapon for humans to use against the physically superior aliens. One Newcomer is assassinated by hitmen dumping rock salt in his swimming pool, and Emily is nearly blinded by a thug with a squirt pistol.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Vessna basically disappears after the second movie.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremists: the Udara, a resistance movement against the Overseers during enslavement, who used any means necessary, up to and including creating sleeper agents (many of whom were children).
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: An old doctor George and Matt interview about stolen Newcomer blood just keeps on spouting off in Yiddish. George's face as he tries to follow the conversation is hilarious.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: In the final movie, George and Susan have basically this argument about the Udara.