Exclusive Interview: Tim Minear Discusses the New "Alien Nation"

Exclusive Interview: Tim Minear Discusses the New "Alien Nation"
Tim Minear, whose credits include The X-Files, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Angel, Firefly, Wonderfalls, The Inside, Drive and, most recently, Dollhouse, is currently developing a new take on Alien Nation for the SyFy Channel. What follows is Newcomers Among Us’ exclusive interview with Minear conducted by Edward Gross.

Alien Nation - Tim Minear NEWCOMERS AMONG US: What do you see as the difference between what you do with Alien Nation and what Ken Johnson did with Alien Nation?

TIM MINEAR: When Fox 21 approached me and said they had the property, they were really talking about the movie, and so that's what I returned to and concentrated on. Though Ken Johnson was one of those forces in my youth who was sort of quietly influential with things like Hulk and “V”.  When I went back and looked at the movie, it just felt to me like the central idea was very clear:  oppressed minority.  Racism.  It seemed to be content to make that point and that was pretty much it, which was fine at the time.  And great for my purposes, because in a post 9-11, post War On Terror world, it just felt like here was a concept that could really be used to explore so much more.  It felt like there was a compelling reason to revisit this material.

NEWCOMERS AMONG US: So how does that impact Alien Nation?

TIM MINEAR:  There is a way to do an alien invasion story that is not Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or gleaming metal ships hovering over cities with laser canons.  There’s a way to do an alien invasion story that’s real, and creeping and complex, but totally recognizable. Because it’s happening right now, more so in Europe than in the States.  It’s an alien invasion not through hovering space ships and laser beams, but through birth rates and demography. Alien Nation would draw partly from that European clash of civilizations and drop it into the continental US.  A French-like ghetto slum in Dallas, or a Gaza Strip in Seattle.  The central thematic question is assimilation versus balkanization.  To the wary humans, this fast growing alien population threatens to take over via demographics.  To the newcomer species that finds itself in an alien world -- the more radical might feel they’re being bullied into assimilating, some feel the larger culture threatens to swallow them whole; to annihilate their identity.
Alien Nation - Caan and Patinkin 03    What the genre element allows us to do is say something -- about the world, about issues, about the human condition.  And it also allows us to do what is done best on cable, which is to create a complex but recognizable world.  This is the The Wire with aliens.  It’s taking elements of the slick, network “paranormal procedural” and dropping it into the streets of The Shield.  And at the center of this you have this guy who is alienated from himself, from his life, from his humanity.   And it takes an alien to help him start to appreciate his own species. The Sykes-Francisco relationship is the thing they got exactly right. The other thing I told Sci-Fi is the other thing I’m missing on television is a ‘70s cop show. What’s not on television? Starsky and Hutch. It’s not there. Lethal Weapon. It’s not there. I think you can take that sensibility, without it being kitschy, but in a post-modern, Tarantino kind of way and have that be a way in.


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