Review: V 1×1

Lizards secretly rule the world. No, I'm not David Icke

V

In the US: Tuesdays (for four weeks, resuming in 2010), 8/7c , ABC
In the UK: SyFy, 2010

Way back in the 80s, aliens came among us, some time during the Los Angeles Olympics, in fact. They looked like us, they pretended to be our friends.

But they turned out to be very dangerous lizard Nazis.

Let that be a warning to you.

Anyway, the mini-series that demonstrated just how you shouldn’t trust any group that wears identical uniforms and has a youth league turned out to be the most popular US mini-series in history. It naturally spawned a full series, which wasn’t very good. To be fair, neither was the mini-series. Bloody “star child”.

Never fear though, because ABC has remade the show and is going to be blasting it at you in small chunks. It stars Elizabeth Mitchell of Lost as an FBI agent, and follows what happens as alien spaceships descend over cities around the world, only to reveal ‘the visitors’, a bunch of nice looking aliens who offer universal healthcare in exchange for water.

But it turns out that maybe those nice visitors aren’t as nice as they first seem.

Here’s the first nine minutes for your enjoyment, or if you prefer, a three-minute trailer.

Plot
At all corners of the Earth humans awaken to the sight of spaceships hovering over every major world city. As ominous as this sounds, we have to admit, it sure beats coffee as the go-to morning pick-me-up.

Jokes aside, the ships’ occupants, known only as “The Visitors,” spread their message quickly and clearly: They have come in peace, bearing gifts of medical miracles and technological breakthroughs far beyond earthlings’ wildest imaginations.

Many of the world’s citizens have been enamored by the aliens and their generous offers, believing every word The Visitors utter. But while on assignment, Homeland Security agent Erica Evans discovers their intentions are anything but altruistic: The Visitors’ claims of peace, generosity and doing no harm are… (pregnant pause)… LIES! They choose to attack by means of guile instead of warfare, infiltrating our governments and businesses in an attempt to subjugate and dominate mankind. Yet even with that knowledge, how can Erica convince others of the truth when The Visitors wield two subtle but formidable weapons from their vast arsenal?

First, with amazing gifts and persistent claims of harmony that The Visitors have demonstrated, many would laugh in Erica’s face or worse. Second, The Visitors have the world’s youth on their side, recruiting many—including Erica’s son Tyler— as ‘Peace Ambassadors’. But in actuality these captivated youngsters are actually serving The Visitors as unsuspecting spies. With little options on preventing this invasion, Erica becomes part of a growing resistance of people who have seen through The Visitor’s lies like her. But will she be able to help thwart this invasion as well as keep her son safe?

In this daring re-imagining of the ‘80s sci-fi classic, humanity takes on a greater threat than any it has ever faced before.

The series is produced by The Scott Peters Company and HD Films in association with Warner Bros. Television. Scott Peters is executive producer/writer and Jeffrey Bell, Steve Pearlman and Jace Hall are executive producers.

Is it any good?
Compared to the original, it’s a masterpiece of subtlety and erudition. On its own terms, it’s pretty good – maybe even very good – but it’s not as surprising as I’d hoped.

For starters, we have a bunch of aliens in super-spaceships. They all look human (although obviously they aren’t), they dress human and they speak English. They know our customs. They offer cures for all kinds of diseases, even though they presumably have completely different biologies. They can even make jokes.

So it’s not too surprising when the episode’s big reveal is… they’ve been here all the time. They’ve cloned human flesh and put it over their own scaly skins. They have their own terrorist sleeper cells manufacturing fake IDs, moving explosives around, etc. Quite how they managed to stay incognito until they worked out how to clone things, I don’t know.

If you have half a braincell in your head, you could see it all coming and probably guess who all the sleeper agents were, too.

We also have a not desperately involving set of characters to deal with. Mitchell’s wonderful in Lost as the strangely uninvolved Juliet, but that’s not an asset on this show, where she seems surprisingly passionless, despite her best efforts. There’s a sleeper visitor who’s gone native, and is helping with the underground resistance, but he seems only to be interested in pouting and glowering for the most part. There’s also a Catholic priest, who everyone keeps turning to for some reason.

Inherited from the original series are a journalist character, who has to decide whether he wants to be famous and parrot what the visitors say, or ask the occasional probing question (where’s his producer when they need him?). The visitors are very nicey nice, preferring cool persuasion to having things like charisma. And there’s a bunch of teenagers. I’ll ignore them. I hope you do, too.

Ideas
But this version of V does handle things better than the original. It’s far more grown-up, without stupid friendly aliens like Willy to appeal to kids. The impact of aliens on the world is also better handled, with the visitors’ arrival having implications for religions that the show isn’t afraid to touch on. The obvious Hitler Youth movement isn’t so obvious this time round, and is far more persuasive. There are also some decent fight scenes.

Okay, they spend a whole lot of money in the first few minutes of the show making anything that can explode explode and having lots of motorcycle chases, but that actually comes across as forgivable. Certainly more forgivable than the original’s action scenes, anyway.

The whole idea of a resistance movement is better handled too. With David Icke and his “reptiles rule the world” conspiracy theorists around in real life, the show makes it clear that the humans who are ranged against the visitors are going to sound like morons if they try to do anything.

There are more than a few logical flaws in the whole set-up, but it’s clever, it’s trying it’s best to improve on the original while carrying forward it’s themes, and it’s a whole lot better than FlashForward. One to stick with for now.




  • You make a lot of good points, but I disagree with your statement that it had more subtlety than the original. Check out my thoughts and comparisons the review I wrote for my blog. http://nickleshi.blogspot.com/2009/11/comparing-new-v-to-original.html

  • TemplarJ

    A bit harsh on the original there Rob. I love it, the first few hours at least. Really iconic stuff, and it played all its shock moments perfectly. Version 2 is just … vanilla. The opening ten minutes was lacking in any sense of awe or scale, which the original had in spades. And where is our modern day Marc Singer, eh? What is television coming to?
    (I had my first ever french kiss while watching the original transmission of V).

  • SK

    Looks v. interesting (do you see what I did there?).
    Have any UK channels picked this up yet?

  • MediumRob

    @Nick: Does it have an old Jewish guy saying “This is just like what happened during the Holocaust” in case anyone missed the subtext? No, so automatically it’s subtler. I do take the points you made on your blog though, but I was going to wait to see if some of the things like the scientist witch-hunt would turn up in later episodes.
    @Jon: Was it with a guinea pig?
    @SK: V clever. And like it says at the top, SyFy (the new name for the Sci Fi Channel) have picked it up for airing sometime in 2010

  • SK

    Ah, sorry, I didn’t realise ‘SyFy’ was UK too (thought it had only changed name in the US).
    I assume no news on when/if it’s coming to free TV then. Sigh.
    Regarding the original series, the ‘you need a symbol.. this is what we used last time’ scene may not have been subtle, but didn’t it just put a lump in your throat? It would be a shame if the new series, by going for subtle, no longer had such manly-tear-jerking moments of heroism, even borrowed heroism.
    But then, that wasn’t in the first episode of the original either, so, give it time.

  • MediumRob

    “Ah, sorry, I didn’t realise ‘SyFy’ was UK too (thought it had only changed name in the US).”
    That’s what the “In the UK” bit means 😉
    Generally, I do the airdate of the country of origin of the show in its home country first, then if I know where it’s airing in my other targeted countries (UK/US/Canada – delete as appropriate), I put them underneath so people know when they can watch it too.
    But it’s easy to miss!
    It’s been a little while since I watched Sci Fi/SyFy, but IIRC it hasn’t changed its name yet, but will be doing so at the end of December.
    “I assume no news on when/if it’s coming to free TV then.”
    Not yet.
    “Sigh.Regarding the original series, the ‘you need a symbol.. this is what we used last time’ scene may not have been subtle, but didn’t it just put a lump in your throat? It would be a shame if the new series, by going for subtle, no longer had such manly-tear-jerking moments of heroism, even borrowed heroism. But then, that wasn’t in the first episode of the original either, so, give it time. ”
    True. That was a good but clunky moment. I imagine though that the new V is more likely to go the Jericho route and make references to the War of Independence, “Don’t Step on Me” etc, if it’s going to reference anything historical.

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