Be still our teenage hearts: the cult classic ’90s drama Roswell is being rebooted on The CW with an immigration twist.
We are living in the age of nostalgia, with practically every and all more-or-less popular franchise being rebooted or revived.
The CW has dipped its toes into reboot territory several times — from the ill-fated Carrie Diaries to the just-premiered Dynasty and again to the Charmed and Lost Boys reboots currently in development — and now the time has come to revisit an absolute gem of a ’90s cult classic: Roswell.
As reported by Deadline, the Roswell reboot is written and executively produced by The Originals writer Carina Adly MacKenzie, who came up from the entertainment journalism field and has years of experience working in the Plec-Williamson ‘verse on the network. MacKenzie also has an abundance of of ’90s fangirl cred, making her the perfect person to take on this particular reboot.
The original Roswell ran from 1999-2002 on The WB, itself an adaptation of Melinda Metz’ YA novel series Roswell High. It was developed and executively produced by Jason Katims, who is not involved with the reboot; in fact, the only creative link between the reboot and the original is executive producer Kevin Kelly Brown.
Aside from introducing a new generation of teen aliens, the new series will be more politically relevant than its predecessor, reflecting our troubling times: where ‘illegal alien’ was a tongue-in-cheek double entendre in the original series, in the upcoming reboot all the meanings of the term are set to be explored.
The new ‘Liz’ is the daughter of undocumented immigrants, while the ‘Max’ of this story is a police officer who is similarly hiding his true identity. The story thus takes on a very different weight from the original, and introduces a new tension between the main protagonists: while the original Max and Liz only had to worry about protecting Max and his family’s identities, new!Max (who presumably won’t be called Max) will also find himself morally obliged to protect new!Liz and her family’s identities.
Roswell always had the potential to serve as an allegory for the U.S.’ immigration issues, and in this new version, it looks like this underlying metaphor will be front and center of the story, which will explore “the politics of fear and hatred” on a wider, more relevant level.
Now, full disclosure: Roswell was one of my absolute favorite series as a pre-teen ’90s kid, which is why I am super stoked that a) it’s coming back at all and b) the series is being re-imagined as opposed to continued with the original cast.
The original three-season show was amazing in its own right, but it certainly wasn’t perfect (read our three-part article series of a newbie’s reaction to watching Roswell for the first time) — there were a lot of story elements that, if MacKenzie and her team choose to revisit them, could be done a lot better this time around, including the actual pacing of the central romance (spoiler alert, they never actually have sex despite this event being a major anticipatory plot point throughout the series).
Roswell had a complex and rich mythology including alien royalty, evil clones and soulmates that was set up really well, but never properly explored before the series’ conclusion; although the reboot is set to focus on a different struggle — according to Deadline, the inciting incident of the series is “a violent attack and long-standing government cover-up point to a greater alien presence on Earth” — I hope some of these elements will be revisited and given their proper due.
Aside from a revival potentially disrupting the original ending (which was actually satisfying, which isn’t something that can be said for season 3 in general), it would also be practically impossible to gather the original cast, which was comprised of young actors that are almost all superstars today: Katherine Heigl, Shiri Appleby, Jason Behr, Colin Hanks, Brendan Fehr, Emilie de Ravin, Majandra Delfino, Nick Wechsler and Adam Rodriguez have all gone on to have very successful careers, and it’s hard to imagine that they would all be able to come back for a reunion special/fourth season.
So I for one am all in on this Roswell reboot. I can’t wait to see what Carina MacKenzie does with this new version of the story, and how the metaphor of aliens hiding among us, living in constant fear of discovery and persecution, can be used to reflect contemporary issues in American society.