Starburst: Men Are From Mars…. (Roswell Article)

Thanks to Nikki for sending this in :). Oh, btw, in case you may miss an article, head to the archive where you can read articles from when the site began last year all the way to the present :)

The article is three pages long and includes short
reviews of the first 5 books (not included here) and a full-page photo of
Majandra and her sister, incorrectly identified as Katherine Heigl.

Website to order backcopies is www.visimag.com

Starburst Special #43 (UK) (pp 94-96)

Men Are From Mars…
My boyfriend is an alien! Teenagers have it hard nowadays, especially at
Roswell High…

Roswell was an ideal target for producers eager to develop a hit TV series.
Something happened in the notorious New Mexico town in the summer of 1947,
and ever since exactly what it was has been the source of intense debate.
From serious conspiracy theory documentaries to big budget dramatizations
and even, believe it or not, a musical – The X-Files’ worldwide popularity
drew attention to the so called Roswell Incident, using the event as part of
its ongoing mythology arc, and soon everyone was hopping on the bandwagon.
Even Star Trek had its own take on the UFO crash. Wasn’t it about time we
got ‘Roswell the Tv series’?

Well yes, and no. The flipside of all this media attention is that everyone
knew what happened from every conceivable angle. And even if they didn’t,
stories of the Roswell incident are an easily exhaustible commodity,
especially when you have to fill 22 hours a year. Ultimately, what made the
topic so alluring was that Melinda Metz had taken the abandoned wreckage and
crafted her own conclusions into a series of popular children’s books called
Roswell High. Set in the more accessible era of the current day, Metz
created her Roswell alien – or, rather, aliens – in the guise of attractive
teenagers. Given the popularity of WB shows such as Buffy the Vampire
Slayer and Dawson’s Creek, it wasn’t a surprise that the TV series producers
David Nutter and Jason Katims developed from these books was quickly snapped
up by the station.

For the TV series both the romantic and Science Fiction elements were played
down. The books were very much in the style of an action adventure series
where the teen aliens and their human friends, slowly pairing off as the
range progressed, had to evade the machinations of the local Sheriff. While
that basic concept remains, the TV series makes a stronger issue of the
aliens’ reluctance to date their human friends, and keeps us very much in
the dark about their alien origins.

The first of these two changes is very much in the series’ favour. After
the runaway success of Dawson’s Creek, it can’t be a bad idea to give the
audience more of what they like; Max, Michael and Isabel’s non-terrestrial
origins giving plenty of cause for deliberation when romance is on the
cards. So: they cast Dawson’s Creek star Jason Behr (who played heartthrob
Chris Wolfe) in the lead role and in the female lead role Shiri Appleby,
someone who, in a bad light, could pass for Katie Holmes (who plays Dawson’s
best friend), and took it from there.

Being obtusely mysterious about what we’re dealing with, on the other hand
is a little more questionable. It’s symptomatic of the X-Files generation
to sell a series on insubstantial promises of major revelations.
Nevertheless, to be fair, it is this very fact that drives the plot.
Sheriff Valenti, whose Dad got a very bad name for himself by chasing aliens
wants to expose the aliens at Roswell High. Now, in such circumstances,
you’d probably sit tight and not give him anything to go on. The aliens,
however, want information as badly as Valenti, and by searching for the key
to their origins, they inadvertantly let things slip.

In a nutshell then, the series deals with ‘relationship stuff’ and ‘alien
stuff’. By the middle of the first series Max has paired off with Liz.
Michael (male alien #2, played by Brendan Fehr) has made his move on Liz’s
friend Maria (Majandra Delfino), and Isabel (female alien, Katherine Heigl)
has started making eyes at Alex (played by Colin Hanks, son of the more
famous Tom). Unfortunately, the more people they let in on their secret,
the greater the chance of discovery. Which, in a round about way, is why
they can’t get too attached, the alien issue being in many ways a metaphor
for all sorts of teenage hang-ups. “I used to say teenagers were the aliens
among us,” comments David Nutter. “And I think all teenagers kind of feel
that way in many respects sometimes. Our challenge is to kind of embrace
that…and have a lot of fun with it.” And indeed they do: while Max and
Liz’s relationship is a model in sexual tension, Michael and Maria share a
mutual mistrust. In 285 South, one of the best episodes thus far, it
reaches comic proportions when they find themselves trapped in a motel room
together and end up in a pile on the floor just as their friends barrel
through the door. Despite vowing “Not if he was the last alien on Earth,”
Maria soon finds herself locked in a cupboard with her pants down his
trousers.

Even so, sometimes it is all ‘work, work, work’ and a lot of the kids spare
time between lessons is taken up researching their past. Max got a job
working at the town’s UFO museum, so that he can rifle through their files.
This and a key stolen from the Sheriff’s file on EBEs, precipitates a trip
into the desert, eventually leading the group to a Native American
reservation where they meet a wise elder called River Dog, who has met the
alien Valenti’s father was tracking. The discovery of this fourth alien is
central to the alien’s quest to discover who they are and where they’re
from. The second half of the season will present us with the possibility
that their elusive search is not just one of their kind, but also family.
The burning question is, however, is he just another alien trying to fit in,
like our fantastically attractive friends, or does he have some hidden
agenda? Jason Katims promises: “a hint of the possibility that the fourth
alien might just not be all good”. A grey area worth exploring.

All in all, the series shows extraordinary promise. It may seem a little
slow: we are 11 episodes in and we have no clue as to what caused 3
pint-sized aliens to become stranded in the desert 10 years before, while
Max and Liz’s on-off relationship is a little frustrating at times. But
Jason Behr believes, “Everything is building to something. We can do things
slowly, play to the smaller quieter moments.” And certainly, as Roswell
gained momentum, it garnered much critical acclaim. It was lauded by many
as the best show of the 1999 season. The New York Post described it as
‘wise, witty and watchable beyond its years’, while elsewhere it was a
‘soulful drama mixing X-Files paranoia with WB young adult concerns.’ At
this time, however, it is unclear whether there is a future for Roswell.
Despite performing quite credibly in the ratings, it didn’t do as well as
many other WB shows – perhaps owing to its unfortunate clash with Star Trek:
Voyager when it was shown on Wednesday nights. Additionally, it was hoped
that the show would attract a large teenage audience, and the demographics
have shown the average age of viewers to be significantly older. It has
been rumoured that the WB only wish to renew two out of the four dramas that
debuted last autumn, and since Science Fiction requires a larger budget,
Roswell may sadly soon be back in the past.

Richard Atkinson