The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 11: Touched By an Alien (2001)   4 comments

Above:  The Alien Mercenary

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Touched By an Alien

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired January 4, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-113

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Octavia L. Spencer as Ruby Rydell

Main Guest Cast

Anna Maria Horsford as Jolene Freewald

Tucker Smallwood as Alonso Freewald

Duane Daniels as Smiley

Behind the Camera

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Sanford Bookstaver

Above:  Smiley

Brief Summary

One night, Donald Stern meets with Smiley, a mysterious figure wearing a fedora.  The publisher pays Smiley with a Tasmanian Tiger Snake.  Smiley warns Donald that something really bad, that somebody needs to stop, will arrive that night.  Donald knows what the dangerous something–someone, rather, is.  Off-screen, sayonara, snake.

An alien mercenary, or, as Donald describes it, a Sexually-Transmitted Assassin (STA) from the Orion constellation, arrives in a pod disguised as a meteorite that crashes into a strip club, Racks ‘N’ Rears.  Much of the episode consists of Wes, Tucker, and Grace pursuing the parasite assassin, a piece of gelatinous goo that dies when exposed to the atmosphere.  The STA has the ability to arouse anyone.  After the STA has transferred from one host to another, it destroys the body of the former host.

Wes Freewald’s “parental units” (a reference to the Coneheads) visit him in the office.  They are proud of him; they collect all the photographs he takes.  They claim to be in town for a Tom Jones concert.

Jessie Vance, the second host, drives to the offices of the World Chronicle.  He injures Donald Stern outside the building.  The publisher spends much of the rest of the episode recuperating in an alien biomorphic healing sanctuary located in the archives.  He is the target of the alien STA, supposedly because of a three-year-old published article about an alien royal family.  (Yet Donald Stern never published that article.)

Jessie Vance, possessed, drives less than a mile away, to the Grant Hotel, where the eighth floor is the site of the World Swingers Convention.  Most of the swingers are old and unattractive. The STA changes hosts twice, ending up inside Grace.  Grace resists arousal as best she can, but the STA overpowers her will.  Wes discovers, to his horror, that his parents are in town for the World Swingers Convention, not a Tom Jones concert.

Grace, possessed, returns to the archives of the World Chronicle and tries to seduce Sal.  The pig-boy is one of two individuals who can open the alien healing sanctuary; the other is Donald Stern.  The publisher has left the healing sanctuary, however.  He traps Grace in it.  Grace, possessed, attacks Stern by breaking glass and grabbing his throat.  Tucker and Wes arrive in time to rescue their boss.  Then Sal begins the procedure of removing the host from Grace.  The STA dies.  Grace lives.

Wes and his parents reestablish their peace.

Donald meats with Smiley again.  The publisher pays Smiley with a kitten.  Stern also asks that Smiley tell his contacts “that Donald Stern is packing heat” and is “not afraid to use it.”  Smiley agrees.  Smiley tells Donald, “Your’re a wonderful human being.”  The publisher replies, “I’d say the same for you, if you were.”  Off-screen, sayonara, kitty.

Above:  The Arrival of the Alien Pod

Character Beats

Tucker is still dating Kristen Martin.

Grace has not dated for eight weeks.

Sal the Pig-Boy is also desperate.  He reminds Grace that he may be half-pig, but that he is also half-man.  Grace retorts, “That’s about a fourth of what I need.”

In 1980, Wes Freewald’s parents took him to see The Empire Strikes Back nine times.  Grace Hall, hearing of this, asks if they received hazard pay for that.

Perhaps the alien biomorphic healing sanctuary explains why Donald Stern has not aged visibly in two decades.

Wes Freewald took his first photograph (of a Buick hubcap masquerading as a UFO) when he was seven years old.

Tucker’s parents do no know he works for the World Chronicle.  How far away from a grocery store checkout line do they live?

Above:  The Freewalds

Great Lines

Donald Stern:  “This alien has his mojo on so hard he could talk Mother Teresa into a threesome with Mahatma Gandhi.”

Donald Stern:  “Now let’s see where this Jacqueline Suzanne monstrosity is headed.”

Grace Hall, describing the World Swingers Convention:  “This is like the Red Shoes Diaries on Geritol.”

Wes Freewald, encouraging Grace Hall to resist arousal:  “Think of nuns, dead puppies, the dude who played Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Wes Freewald:  “I think I need to wash out my skull with soap.”

Wes Freewald:  “Man, after tonight, I’m going to pay off some shrink’s mortgage.”

Above:  Part of the Front Page

In-Universe

The Chronicle exists in the same universe as another Sci-Fi Channel series, The Invisible Man (2000-2002).  Yet Donald Stern dismisses that proposed story for the World Chronicle as preposterous.  Given what is not preposterous in previous episodes of The Chronicle, this is ironic.

Before Donald Stern reassigned Grace Hall to the STA story, she had been reporting on a man with an exposed brain.  (We will hear of this man again.)

Tucker once spent a night in a man-eating oven.

The Grant Hotel and the offices of the World Chronicle are less than a mile apart.

Donald Stern has an impressive alien arsenal in the archives of the World Chronicle.

Smiley is an extraterrestrial disguised as a human being.

Alonso and Jolene Freewald refer to some events from Here There Be Dragons.

Above:  Sal and Donald at Work

Comments

This episode combines the mysterious, the dangerous, and the funny well.  The soundtrack accents the appropriate mood at any given moment, and what needs to be off-camera is off-camera.  Human imaginations can fill in the other details.

“Racks ‘N’ Rears” is an unambiguous name for a strip club.

Touched By an Alien has more quotable lines than Take Me Back, the previous episode in both broadcast order and production order.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2020 COMMON ERA

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