They have brought back one of the best science fiction mini-series of all time as a series on ABC: “V”. Of course, when NBC attempted to stretch out the original into a full-fledged series, they ruined it. But it’s back as a series, 25 years later and loaded with special effects (and, hopefully, better writers). They’re keeping the premise the same: Extraterrestrial aliens come to Earth promising the universe but hiding the fact that they’re actually here to conquer — and eat… us. Even after two-and-a-half decades, some things never change — even among Hollywood writers…
“V” was a great mini-series when it debuted in 1983. The aliens were all these good-looking people with crisp regimented moves and mannerisms. Their main symbol resembled an altered swastika. Their uniforms were modified Nazi chic a la the Gestapo. You couldn’t get much more obvious than that that the aliens were going to be very Hitler-ish. Their leader was a woman named Diana (actress Diana Badler), which may have been an intended misogynistic swipe at women leaders (but who really knows?).
Of course, there’s always those who “see through” the niceness, the façade of universal philanthropy in these cheesy shows and movies. They always form a resistance. In 1983, the resistance was led by Mike Donovan (Marc Singer, just after swinging a sword in “Beastmaster”). The resistance fighters took the ‘v’ of the Visitors and began using it as a symbol of the resistance: “V” for ‘victory’.
This time around, the resistance coalesces around Father Jack Landry (Joel Grestch) and FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell), who, by the end of the first episode, discuss forming a resistance movement. They do it in a ho-hum, it’s something we gotta do kind of way. One guy has already started a movement against the visitors and has the help of Visitor traitors. The viewer learns that the main Visitor traitor is Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut), who is in love with a human. In the original series, the main traitor was actor Robert Englund, more famous for his role as Freddie Kruger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies.
In the new and improved version of “V”, the aliens seem to be more into selling themselves as a product, more into the PR of it, and their uniform of choice would go over well on Wall Street. Instead of Nazis, the new “V” seems geared toward the cold corporate mentality that drives the free market. The use of a doubting priest, Father Landry, seems to be an ironic swipe at organized religion as the Catholic Church aligns itself with the aliens (while the good father rebels, of course).
The insidiousness of the new religion situation with the Visitors becomes evident in the pilot episode as the priest and the FBI agent, the alien traitor (who was once part of a sleeper cell) and the guy who sounds like a conspiracy theorist but actually knew something was going on all along (played by David Richmond-Peck) converge at a meeting and are attacked by another group. Evans is attacked by her partner, who happens to be a Visitor in human clothing (and skin), which is revealed to her when she tears his skin with a blow from what looks like rebar. At the same time, the agent’s son (Jesse Wheeler) volunteers to be an “ambassador of peace” and is being seduced by a cute, blonde Visitor (who really only wanted him over for a quick dinner).
The Visitors leader, Anna (Moreena Baccarin), seduces television personality Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) to help sell the Visitors to humans, offering him fame. He’s torn, but turns out to have negotiable principles.
The word “devotion” gets tossed around a lot on the first show. At shows end, it refers to the way people are dealing with the arrival of the Visitors…
But there was little action, too much background, all more suited toward a two-hour pilot than one. And the story isn’t compelling. After watching the Enron scandal, the Mormon funding of anti-Proposition 8, bank failures, Hurricane Katrina, September 11, three wars in the Persian Gulf region, and a literal murderer’s row of child predators and serial killers (not to mention shows and movies that use capturing these people as central themes), “V,” the 2009 series, is not very compelling at all. “The English Patient,” arguably the most boring movie ever made, is more compelling. You have to get your audience to want to watch the show again, not bore them into choosing CNN or Fox News to find something enegaging to watch. And why ABC chose to go with a one-hour pilot makes little sense. Sure, “Dancing With The Stars” is their franchise piece, but a two-hour “V” premiere after six months of media blitzing would have been optimal, especially over their third hour of programming, which was an ABC throwaway, “The Forgotten.”
As recycled material goes, one is taken with the idea that it should be an improvement over the original — or at least as good. You might think that ABC would have learned from the failures of forgettable callbacks like “Knight Rider” and “The Bionic Woman.” The new “V” series looks newer, shinier, and has better special effects — and good actors — but needs to pick up momentum to be better than even the original.
By the end of the premiere, this writer was annoyed that he’d missed the first hour of “So You Think You Can Dance,” which, as a competition, has more drama, passion, and rehearsed conflict in ten minutes than “V” had in its entire first hour. Which does not bode well for the future of “V”.
It wasn’t even as compelling as “Battlefield Earth.” No, really… and “V” doesn’t have John Travolta to sell it, either.
Too tell the truth, if one didn’t know better, one might think the show’s creators and writers were attempting to slam corporate America and the Church of Scientology at the same time. What they ended up with was a remake that doesn’t even compare well with its 25-year-old predecessor.
So far, “V” stands for vapid…
“V”, ABC Television
“V”(1984), NBC Television
“V”(1983), NBC Television