If Joss Whedon has taught us nothing else, he’s shown that high school is a complicated time. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” got much of its richness from dwelling in those years. The folks behind “Star Crossed” (8 p.m. Monday, CW) draw from that same well to create an enjoyable and nimble little sci fi romance.
The action starts with a backstory: Aliens land on Earth and the Earthlings aren’t waiting to find out if they have good intentions or not; they just start shooting. One little alien escapes and finds shelter in a shed, where he’s discovered by a sickly little girl who is nice to him and feeds him cold spaghetti. Somehow, Army types figure out where the alien kid is and, in front of the girl and her parents, shoot the little guy down.
Fast forward to years later when the little girl Emery ( Aimee Teegarden) has regained her health and can go to high school. As it happens, her first day coincides with the first day of a new integration plan to enroll the first set of teen aliens, now called Atrians, into her school. This being the CW, the aliens aren’t gruesome; they mostly look like teen models with tattoos on their faces, and are derisively called “Tatts” by the bigots.
Among the young Atrians is Roman ( Matt Lanter). Guess who he was as a little boy?
What follows is a version of “Romeo and Juliet” with some “V” thrown in. Just like “V” for instance, there are echoes of the American Civil Rights Movement in the aliens’ struggle (I’d like to state for the record that black people did not come from outer space, despite that tattoo on Mike Tyson’s face), and other facets of this country’s history of treating “others.” The Atrians, for instance, are kept in a camp known as the Sector (remember those Japanese internment camps?).
The writers do a great job – in the two episodes I screened – of adding layers to the story that keep the show intriguing. There’s a KKK-like group, the Red Hawks, who believe the Atrians have a secret plot to take over the Earth. There are political power struggles in the Atrians’ world and in the humans’ world. There are double agents on both sides and tricky family dynamics. There’s even a world-changing alien super drug.
“Star Crossed” gets off to a promising start, and if the writers manage all these threads well, CW may have a keeper.