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That 'Alien Nation' remake from Midnight Special director may be back on track as a TV series

By James Comtois

Hey, do you remember Alien Nation, the 1988 sci-fi buddy cop movie where James Caan got partnered with a humanoid alien police officer who could get drunk from spoiled milk played by Inigo Montoya himself, Mandy Patinkin? Seriously, it wasn’t a fever dream; it was just the ‘80s. And do you remember that the director of Mud and Midnight Special was set to reboot it for Fox before the studio got bought by Disney, essentially killing the project? Well, it looks as though it still could be coming back. Well, the core premise, at least — maybe not necessarily the story ... or Inigo Montoya as the alien cop. 

Speaking with Roger and James Deakins on the Team Deakins podcast (thanks to Slashfilm for bringing this to our attention), Jeff Nichols revealed that his next big project would be a remake – or more of a reimagining – of the Graham Baker film as a 10-episode television series. 

“Yeah, I’m working on a series right now,” Nichols revealed on the podcast. The director explained that in 2016 Fox approached him about remaking Alien Nation. At first, he wasn’t interested. But then, he “had this idea of how I could take that title but a situation that has nothing to do with the original movie, necessarily, and I got really excited about it.” 

After spending the next “three years building out an entire alien civilization and this situation and this setup and all these characters,” Nichols was set to make “a big, $100 million studio film,” for Fox. Then in 2019, Disney bought Fox and the project was put on ice, which Nichols described as “soul-crushing.”

But all was not lost. According to Nichols, Disney asked him if he’d consider turning his script into a series, to which he said yes. “So, I have taken it and broken it into 10 episodes, and it’s under consideration right now,” Nichols said. “Who knows, people in far more powerful positions than me are deciding that. One of the tricks is, I want to shoot it like a giant film, and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get away with that.”

The original film takes place in the then-near-future of Los Angeles (1991) after a spaceship with alien refuges have landed and are now living alongside humans. The story centered on Caan’s human police detective being paired with the LAPD’s first nonhuman cop (Patinkin) to investigate a drug ring. But really, it was about how the two learned to settle their differences and ultimately become friends and a crime-fighting powerhouse (because, buddy cop film).

Based on Nichols’ comments, it seems as though his 10-epsiode series won’t follow the same plot of the original film (or the short-lived FOX TV series that followed it), but will still play with the themes of xenophobia, immigration, and racism.

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