Last night The CW premiered its latest science fiction series, the Romeo & Juliet riff Star-Crossed. It’s right up the network’s alley, wrapping up teen angst and romance in genre trappings. Sometimes The CW’s blend of soap opera and fantastic elements works really well — see Supernatural and Arrow. Other times, you get a misfire like The Tomorrow People…or, at first glance, at least, Star-Crossed.
The show stars Aimee Teegarden and Matt Lanter as Emery and Roman, a hottie human girl and a hunky alien dude who had a brief meeting on the day Roman’s people — called “Atrians — first crash-landed on our planet. On that night, Emery thought Roman was shot dead by soldiers while trying to protect her, but surprise surprise: he’s doing just fine, and is one of seven Atrian youths being integrated into Emery’s high school as part of an experimental integration. Ten years after “Arrival Day,” most of the Atrians are still confined to a secure zone nearby, while the wreckage of their ship looms on the horizon, slowly being disassembled by human authorities.
There’s a nice little tip of the hat to E.T. during the pilot episode’s opening sequence, with young Emery discovering Roman hiding inside a shed in her backyard, just like the first meeting between Elliot and his long-fingered extraterrestrial BFF in the classic Spielberg family flick. Unfortunately, the comparisons to earlier science fiction films doesn’t stop there, but they do get less favorable toward Star-Crossed. The two most obvious touchstones are Alien Nation and District 9, both of which involved alien invaders suddenly stranded on our world. Those films used that notion as a vehicle to examine real-world problems such as prejudice, and Star-Crossed is riding that metaphor hard in its first episode, but without bringing much new to the conversation. Some of the dialogue the humans toss out to denigrate the Atrians could be pulled straight from your average modern anti-immigration rant, but so far it’s very on the nose and cliched. Then again, I realize this show is mostly about Emery and Roman making goo-goo eyes at each other, so the target audience probably isn’t looking for deep explorations of human nature and xenophobia.
And by the way, Star-Crossed really needs a better offensive slang term for the Atrians than “tatties.” Although I do imagine they’d be a hit among frat boys and Girls Gone Wild cameramen. “Show us your tats!”
One of the things that could help this show find its legs is if the writers can make the Atrians more than what they are right now. At this point, they’re pretty much just humans with tattoos. I’m not asking for Farscape-level creature work here, but if your aliens look like they just wandered out of a Hot Topic catalog, it behooves you to show how that extraterrestrial culture is different from our own people, and off-handedly revealing they have two hearts isn’t going to cut it. I don’t expect a new show to fully explore its characters by the end of the pilot, but so far Star-Crossed hasn’t managed to make the Atrians remotely interesting, or really different from humans at all.
There are a couple of hints that, if handled right, could take the show in more interesting directions in future episodes. There are rumblings of malcontent from the Atrians, suggesting that some of them think humanity needs to be supplanted as the planet’s dominant species. We also discover that one of their plants, when combined with their own blood, appears to be able to cure cancer. Needless to say, they’ve been keeping that on the down low, and things could get messy if/when that secret comes out. If they’re essentially carrying a panacea in their bloodstreams, you can bet there are going to be plenty of people who decide Atrian rights aren’t nearly as important as harvesting those medicinal benefits. Just wait till the drug companies hear about this.
But hey, this show isn’t really after my eyeballs, it’s after the Twilight crowd, so you can take my cranky, get-off-my-lawn criticisms as you see fit. It’s not must-see TV for me, but then again I’m not a teenage girl. What did you guys think of Star-Crossed?