[about second level storytelling]
> My favorite in this genre is "Alien Nation", on one level a simple
> buddy movie, but on another a elegant anti-racist one.
Yes, a rarely well-done piece about racism, but not only that. See below...
> Sadly it span off a terrible TV series, which had none of the depth
> of the original (or the style)
Nah, I would not think so.
As we already talking about this, consider also Max Headroom and (yes)
The Alien Nation TV series handled an interesting topic, usually socially
(Good) Science fiction has a tradition of running a social problem
in a future time to give the reader enough distance to recognize it.
Max Headroom's 'twenty minutes into the future' is a definite clue to that.
Those subtitles tell us that this will happen in twenty minutes - even
before we have finished watching the current episode!
Headroom handled organ transplants, media controlled judicative systems,
education that has to be paid for, etc.
Alien Nation handled the subjects of curiosity (the one about pornos and
violence) (extremely good episode that one), environmental issues and war
(Somewhere in an episode the cop says: "When we finally got them to stop
producing atom bombs, they found out that they then had more money to make
chemical warfare material"), there's the situation of immigrants and aliens
(aliens now in the more common meaning of people from other countries),
differences between ideologies, handling of drugs etc.etc.
Not only the subjects are interesting, also the way they are presented is
well done. I would not say that they are at all bad.
Here in Germany, all of the above mentioned series were put into the
children's time slot.
As for Star Trek, remember that episode about the two characters with
black/white faces that were the last ones of their planet and were still
fighting each other, not getting the idea of the senselessness of war.
So there are quite a few examples of concealing a controversial subject
with a seemingly trivial gloss all over it, just to make people watch it.
And perhaps think.