On May 1, 1983, I sat down as a child to watch a science fiction TV mini-series on NBC which would not only captivate a nation, but would spawn a miniseries sequel, a weekly television series, and now a new big budget remake by ABC. Ten years later, I’d become a professional Hollywood writer and write for another popular sci-fi entity – Star Trek: The Next Generation. Creator Kenneth Johnson’s V: Original Miniseries definitely stoked the fires of sci-fi writing in me.
V weaves a chilling what-if tapestry involving a sudden appearance of huge spaceships all around Earth. I’m guessing they were too busy to call ahead and make their destination plans known, but when they do reveal themselves, they appear to all of humanity as, well humans too. There are a few differences. These Visitors talk in a raspy, scratchy digital quality. Their eyes are so sensitive to light, they wear thick sunglasses constantly, but their friendly demeanor makes Earth’s populace accept them as species equivalent peers.
Slowly, but surely, humanity not only embraces them, but does its best to serve them. We’re told they need chemicals. Their planet desperately lacks essential ones. In exchange, they’ll help us with fantastic technology. In short order, humans from poor, middle class to super rich not only support the Visitors, but revel in a kind of blind worship. Totalitarian shades, even Nazi regimes are soon felt, and when the truth about the Visitors is learned, it’s as shocking as it was when I first viewed it broadcast on NBC as a boy. The aliens seek to rob Earth’s water supply, along with our way of life itself.
The DVD is an excellent presentation, with a crisp, clear print and informative audio commentary by creator Kenneth Johnson. Johnson goes through great behind the scenes moments, his creative process and fun stuff like FX and actor casting. Standout actors, and there are so many, include, Marc Singer as cameraman Mike Donavan, Faye Grant as medical doctor Julie Parrish, Jane Badler as the wickedly evil Visitor Diana and a pre Freddie Krueger (Nightmare On Elm Street) Robert Englund as lovable, but clumsy Visitor Willie.
Despite V being a quarter century old, and many know the ‘truth’ of the Visitors, I won’t spoil the fun. I will point to my favorite scene and arguably still one of the most shocking scenes of any TV show. When Diana (Jane Badler) is hungry for a snack, she reaches for something decidedly raw. The visual of her downing this squirming tidbit remains as weirdly chilling as ever. Though accomplished with make-up and real material things of the time, I doubt a digital equivalent can best it.
V: The Original Miniseries remains one TV’s most groundbreaking short form projects. As a sci-fi entry, it’s stirring emotionally, visually arresting and action packed. Judging it only as a solid piece of dramatic entertainment, V: The Original Miniseries also delivers. The DVD is worth picking up for any sci-fi fan, action fan, or just a lover or scholar of classic television.